Mommypotamus https://www.mommypotamus.com Fri, 23 Jun 2017 02:02:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 https://www.mommypotamus.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/cropped-MP-logo-purple-32x32.png Mommypotamus https://www.mommypotamus.com 32 32 Healthy Pregnancy Diet: What To Eat While Pregnant https://www.mommypotamus.com/pregnancy-diet/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/pregnancy-diet/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:41:27 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=56105 I unofficially announced my first pregnancy to my husband by bringing a 24 ounce jar of olives to bed, eating the entire thing, and then drinking the juice. With my second, I remember handing a half-eaten jar of Bubbies pickles to our local health food store cashier with an embarrassed smile – it was a long […]

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I unofficially announced my first pregnancy to my husband by bringing a 24 ounce jar of olives to bed, eating the entire thing, and then drinking the juice. With my second, I remember handing a half-eaten jar of Bubbies pickles to our local health food store cashier with an embarrassed smile – it was a long walk from the back of the store!

As just about any mama can attest, pregnancy cravings are real. But although sometimes our cravings guide us in the right direction, they can also steer us away from what’s best for us and our baby. That’s a big deal, because what we eat during pregnancy has a life-long impact on our children’s health.

DNA and Destiny: Not What We Thought

We used to think the genes we pass on to our children are unchangeable, like the keys on a piano. While that’s true, pianos don’t play themselves, and neither do our genes. External factors like our diet, sleep quality, stress levels and exposure to toxins influence which genes turn on and off – essentially determining what kind of “music” they play.

This interplay between genes and lifestyle is called epigenetics, which literally means “above” or “on top of” genes . . . kind of like the hands that play a piano. How we eat during pregnancy has a huge impact on epigenetics. We’re still trying to understand all of the implications, but so far a mama’s diet during pregnancy has been shown to influence a child’s lifelong risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and more. (source 1, source 2)

While that may sound scary at first, it’s actually very good news. Our DNA is not our destiny, and although it’s ideal to give our kids the best start possible with a healthy preconception and pregnancy diet, it’s also possible to positively influence our (and our children’s) genetic expression during every stage of life.

The nutrients that we’ll be discussing in this post are helpful for pregnancy for the same reason that they’re helpful all through life: they bring out the best in us. So wherever you are in your journey – trying to conceive, pregnant, nursing, or raising a family – I hope you will find this information helpful and pass it on!

But first, meet my midwife

Before we dive into the specifics, I want you to meet my co-author for this post. Jordan Callahan is a Certified Professional Midwife who has been working with families – including mine with baby #3 – in the birth field since 2007. She’s helped babies out in homes, birth centers, hospitals and overseas – there have even been some car surprises. 🙂 Jordan has a special interest in nutrition research and enjoys discussing all things related to healthy eating and good food.

Now on to the post!

What does an ideal pregnancy diet look like?

As much as we might wish for it, there is no one “perfect” diet that works for everyone. Our needs vary based on our genetics and lifestyle factors, such as how active we are.

How do genetics influence what food is best for us? Put simply, our bodies are usually adapted to eat what our ancestors ate, and that varies widely. For example, Okinawan traditionally consumed about 85% of their calories in the form of starch, mostly from purple sweet potatoes. (source)

Obviously that’s a very high carb diet, which is the opposite of what many experts recommend, and yet “Life expectancy was 86 years for women and 77.6 years for men. Life expectancy at age 65 is the highest in the world, at 24.1 years for females and 18.5 years for males. Finally, the Okinawan population has the highest prevalence of centenarians in the world. “

On the flipside, the Masaii tribe in Kenya are famous for their robust health – they thrive almost exclusively on milk, meat and blood. (source) Apologies if you’re pregnant and your stomach just did a flip flop! Interestingly, the ability to digest milk is not present in the majority of individuals of Asian and African descent, but small groups who raise animals for milk/meat have genetically adapted to be able to do so.

What works for you will vary based on your genetics and lifestyle factors. However, there are some common principles/sacred foods regarded across many cultures as helpful for supporting women through preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Pregnancy Nutrition: The WHY of WHAT To Eat

You’re here because you want to know WHAT to eat while you’re pregnant. But before we cover the WHAT, we need to talk about the WHY. Why? Because unless you know the WHY, you might let yourself believe that a multivitamin or set of supplements covers all the bases… and they really don’t.

Although there is a time for supplementation – and we’ll be talking more about that soon – the nutrients in food come with all kinds of cofactors that help us absorb them . . . cofactors that are often missing in supplements. You need real food, mama.

Don’t have time to dive into all the details right now?

No worries, you can skip ahead to the “What To Eat When Pregnant” section for a list of foods to embrace and foods to avoid, then come back later when you have more time.

Alright, back to the specifics. Have you ever thought about the intricate details that are happening inside your body during pregnancy? You could be lounging at the beach reading a good book while simultaneously building a baby’s nervous system! No big deal, right?

While your body may be on autopilot doing these miraculous tasks, it needs the proper building materials to effectively do its job. Because it can only use what is available, it’s vital to fill up on wholesome, nutrient-dense foods so that both you and your baby get what you need. Let’s first review some of the major nutrients and the roles they play during pregnancy, and then we’ll talk about the best way to incorporate them into the diet.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is needed for the formation and growth of baby’s organs, bones, eyes and central nervous system.  It supports mom’s immune health and fights infections, promotes tissue healing postpartum, and is critical for your baby to have good vision.

Nutrition labels often say that a food has “X” amount of Vitamin A, but what they really mean is that it contains carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Unfortunately beta-carotene is not biologically active, and therefore not the same as the bioavailable form of Vitamin A (retinol) found in animal products. Most of us do not possess enough of the enzyme needed to efficiently convert beta-carotene into bioavailable Vitamin A – in fact, this study found that only about 3% is converted, and about 45% of adults can’t make the conversion at all. (source 1, source 2)

True bioavailable Vitamin A is found only in animal products such as fermented cod liver oil, pastured butter, egg yolks, liver, and seafood.

The foods which contain the most bioavailable Vitamin A are liver (or liver capsules if you can’t stomach liver), pastured butter, milk, animal fats such as lard and tallow, and cod liver oil. Dark leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and peppers), cantaloupe, apricots and mangoes contain beta-carotene, and although you probably can’t eat enough of them to meet all your Vitamin A needs, they contain a lot of additional micronutrients which are beneficial during pregnancy.

Important note: You will find many warnings associated with vitamin A consumption, citing its toxicity and risk of birth defects if taken in excess. This warning is legitimate if you are taking Vitamin A supplements and getting it through fortified foods like cereal (another reason to avoid the middle aisles in the grocery store!), but consuming real foods where it’s naturally occurring is not a problem as long as you’re also optimizing your Vitamin D intake. Chris Kresser, LAc explains why here.

B Vitamins, Including Folate

MTHFR. Although it kind of sounds like a swear word, it’s actually the name of a genetic mutation that about 30-50% of us have. It’s a huge deal during pregnancy, because the MTHFR enzyme is what converts Vitamin B9 – also known as folate – into it’s usable form, methylfolate.

We’re often told to take extra folic acid before and during pregnancy to prevent spina bifida and neural tube defects, but for those us with MTHFR that simply won’t work. Our capacity to convert synthetic folic acid into usable form is reduced by 40-70%. Even worse, unconverted folic acid may stick to the folate receptor sites in our bodies and prevent us from getting the usable form.

For that reason, it’s really important to focus on getting Vitamin B9 in it’s natural form, which is more easily processed by the body. Some individuals also supplement with the bioavailable form (discussed in MTHFR FAQ’s) while making an effort to eat foods rich in other B Vitamins – especially B12 and B6 – which are essential for DNA synthesis and repair, neurotransmitter production, detoxification, immune function, brain development, eye health, digestion, and nervous system development.

Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of B6 and B9, and B12 is found in animal products such as fish, meat, eggs, and dairy.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that helps your body to fight infections, produce collagen for bone and joint health, stabilize blood sugar, heal wounds, and keep skin healthy. It also helps your body absorb iron, which keeps your hemoglobin levels optimal, preventing anemia. In pregnancy it helps with your baby’s tissue and bone formation, and its antioxidant properties strengthen the blood vessels of the placenta, reducing the risk of oxidative stress and preeclampsia (source). Recent studies have shown that Vitamin C can reduce the physical and psychological effects of stress. (source

The best sources of Vitamin C are sauerkraut, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, dark greens, and peppers. A note that vitamin C is destroyed when exposed to heat, so eat these foods raw to gain the maximum benefit. 

Vitamin D

Often called “The Sunshine Vitamin,” Vitamin D is known as the champion of strong bones and teeth. However, it’s also very important for fetal lung development, immune regulation, hormone balance, and the prevention of insulin resistance, neurological problems, and cardiovascular diseases. Mothers with optimal levels significantly reduce their risk of having gestational diabetes, infections, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia and preterm birth. (source)

There are a few good food sources of Vitamin D, including cod liver oil, fatty fish and fish eggs, pastured butter, and eggs. However, according to MIT Senior Research Scientist Dr. Stephanie Seneff, Vitamin D supplements cannot fully replace sunshine, and sunlight is the best (and free!) way for the body to absorb and use vitamin D. Try to spend 10-15 minutes per day in the sun without sunscreen.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, commonly known as tocopherol, was named by researchers after the Greek tokos (childbirth) and ferein (to bring forth). Originally it was called “Fertility Factor X” because rats were unable to produce offspring without it. (source) While it clearly plays a role in human reproduction, there is no conclusive evidence to support the how and why.

We do know it is an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage, supports cellular structure, keeps the immune system strong, and helps the body form red blood cells. New research suggests that if a mom’s levels are low at birth the child may be at a greater risk of developing asthma.(source 1, source 2)

Foods with the highest amount of Vitamin E include grass-fed animal fats, freshly ground grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that derives it’s name from the German word “koagulation.” (source) As you’ve probably guessed, that’s because it’s plays an essential role in blood clotting and wound healing.  It partners with vitamin D to build strong bones and store calcium in bone tissue, helps with protein formation in the liver, and plays a role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Having adequate stores of vitamin K is especially important postpartum when recovering from childbirth and for your baby to prevent spontaneous external or internal bleeding to the brain, which is life threatening.

The two main forms are K1 and K2— K1 is obtained through green leafy vegetables and K2 is obtained through fermented foods and animal fats (cheese, butter and eggs) and is also synthesized by bacteria in your gut.

DHA and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential fatty acids that can only be obtained through food or supplementation – our bodies can’t make them, and they’re needed for building the brain, nerves and eyes and for supporting the heart and immune system.

They reduce inflammation in the body and can lower risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and much more. They also assist in the production of breast milk. Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that specifically affects the brain and nervous system and positively influences behavioral and cognitive functions in the growing baby. High levels of omega-3s in pregnancy are associated with a reduced risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth and maternal depression/postpartum mood disorders. (source)

Most people are very deficient in this nutrient because the main sources of DHA and omega-3s are fatty fish and organ meats, two nutrient dense foods that are not consumed on a regular basis in the typical western diet. Plant sources used to be promoted as a source of omegas, but we now know they are not ideal because they are composed of a shorter chained omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which our bodies can’t convert to DHA very well.

When choosing fish that are high in omega-3’s and DHA, opt for species that are low in mercury and other contaminants. You’ll find a list of recommended options below under “Food to Embrace.”

Minerals

Although vitamins often take center stage when it comes to discussions on pregnancy nutrition, minerals play a vital supporting role. For example, Vitamin’s D and K play an essential role in bone development, but so do magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. That’s one of the reasons bone broth – which is high in minerals – is listed as a highly recommended food below.

What To Eat When Pregnant

Now that we’ve covered the why, it’s time to move on to the what.

The number one thing to prioritize when shopping and cooking is REAL food.  While that statement might seem overly simple, we are bombarded on a daily basis with claims from food products that make this very confusing. Before there was nutrition science and the food industry, people just ate food that they were able to hunt/grow/prepare at home. At the end of the day, the best foods for our bodies will not be made in a factory or concocted in a lab but grown or derived from nature.  Following are some key foods that have an abundance of the nutrients we talked about above.

1. Vegetables and Fruits

Fill your plate with a variety of different colors at each meal and focus more on vegetables, viewing fruit as an occasional treat or dessert. Fresh is best, frozen is next, and canned is last as many nutrients are destroyed in the high heat process of preserving. There’s also the issue of bisphenol in canned products – which is sometimes present even when packaging is labeled as “BPA free.”

Local produce that is in season will be at the peak of freshness- making it more nutritious and better tasting – than food that has stored in a warehouse. Pair vegetables with fat to protect valuable antioxidants and nutrients during the cooking process, help your body regulate sugar absorption in the bloodstream, and maximize nutrient absorption.

Eating organically grown produce is ideal – it’s best to avoid pesticide exposure as much as possible, but if that is difficult, then educate yourself on the “dirty dozen” and stick to the produce in the clean category.  Of course, wash all produce thoroughly to remove any soil born bacteria and pesticide residue that may be harmful to a growing baby. It also might be worthwhile to consider supplementing with a soil-based probiotic, which contains beneficial strains found in the soil.

2. Pastured Meats

Eating quality meat is a topic worthy of its own post, but let’s go over the highlights for now. Buy meat that has been raised on pasture (meaning, not confined in a small space lying in fecal matter with limited access to fresh air) and not been injected with antibiotics, hormones, or given genetically modified feed.  The nutritional benefits of pastured animals is consistently shown to be superior to its grain-fed counterparts.

Here are two comparative studies done on chicken and beef which show how feed and living conditions affect nutritional content.  We aren’t just what we eat…we are what our food eats, too.

When selecting cuts, buy meat on the bone with skin on (for chickens) to get all of the nutrients that are found in animal fat (not to mention using that fat during cooking to get a tender and much more flavorful result!).  Consuming organ meats such as liver is a great and inexpensive way to load up with A, D, K, and B vitamins as well as iron.  You can channel your inner Julia Child and whip up some delectable chicken liver pate, or you can simply grate it into every day foods like ground beef tacos.  If you are panicking at the very thought of cooking an animal liver let alone eating it, don’t worry!  There are clean sources of desiccated liver that you can consume in capsule form – here’s what I use.

3. Eggs

Pastured eggs, particularly the yolks, are a nutritional powerhouse, high in omega-3s, vitamins A, D, E, K, B6, folate, choline, biotin and other trace nutrients. Aim to eat 2-3 eggs per day which can be prepared in many different ways (hard boiled, veggie and meat omelets, blended egg and banana “pancakes”, quiche, etc).

4. Wild Caught Seafood

High in essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D, seafood is a wonderful source of nutrition for you and baby and ideally should be eaten 3-4 times per week with meals.  Mollusks such as oysters and mussels and fatty fish such as salmon are especially high in these nutrients.  Once again, be in the know with where your food is coming from.  A lot of farmed seafood is given genetically modified feed and most live in very crowded conditions, resulting in heavy doses of antibiotics administered to combat disease.

Also stick to seafood that is low in mercury such as salmon, sardinesanchovies (here are some ways to serve them if you’re not a fan), flounder, oysters, and mussels. Avoid the following due to their high mercury content:  swordfish, shark, tilefish, king mackerel, orange roughy and tuna.

Extra virgin cod liver oil is also a good source of Omega-3’s and DHA, as is caviar.

5. Healthy Fats

Don’t be afraid of fat! Fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, has been largely misrepresented over the last several decades, and we’re finally coming around to appreciating the vital role it plays in our health, especially during pregnancy. It is essential for synthesizing hormones, forming cell membranes, building the brain, storing energy, digesting and absorbing vitamins and much more. Did you know that breast milk is naturally high in cholesterol? That’s because its role is critical to a growing baby’s brain and nervous system.

Of course we’re talking about wholesome, traditionally used fats, not the hydrogenated oils and trans fats which are found in processed foods.

Sources of good fats are full-fat dairy such as sour cream, raw hard cheese and butter, eggs, coconut oil, organic and pastured tallow and lard, olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, nuts and seeds.

6. Fermented Foods

In traditional cultures all around the world, you will find that fermented foods are a staple. They are loaded with probiotics, enzymes, vitamin K, B-vitamins and many other beneficial nutrients that grow and feed good bacteria in the gut.

Because the gut houses a large portion of your immune system and is considered to be the “second brain”, ensuring a variety of good bacteria is vital to digestive, immune, and neurological health. Most people think of sauerkraut and kimchi when they hear “fermented food,” but there are many other wonderful foods to enjoy if cabbage isn’t your thing, including yogurt, water kefir, coconut milk kefir, ginger ale and beet kvass.

7. Bone  Broth

Bone broth is pretty magical stuff. It contains minerals that act as “spark plugs” in our bodies, anti-aging components, detoxifying components and more. Consumed by cultures all over the world, this humble food is jam-packed with magnesium, calcium, and other trace minerals, proline and glycine amino acids, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.

Here’s how to make bone broth in a slow cooker, and here’s how to make it in an Instant Pot.

Bone broth can be seasoned with sea salt and sipped, or used as a base for Spanish rice and homemade soups like:

How much protein should I eat?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about pregnancy nutrition. Before we categorized food into macro and micronutrients (or even knew about nutrients for that matter), preindustrial societies just followed their cravings and filled up on nourishing food until they were satiated.  No one was sitting around calculating how many grams of protein were in the meal they were about to eat.

For the most part our bodies are wise and will let us know what we need, but sometimes due to modern factors (like the availability of lots of sweets) our bodies cravings can be skewed. When it comes to protein, modern mamas should aim for 75 to 100 grams of protein every day. (Charts of food and grams of protein they contain can be easily found online)

More important than the quantity, though, is the quality. Walk past the flashy protein bar boxes that promise a myriad of miracle working wonders and load up on pastured meats, eggs, and dairy as your main source. If you find yourself craving sweets or carbs constantly, that’s a sign that you need to up your protein intake.

Foods To Limit Or Avoid

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners (including fruit juice and soft drinks)
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sprouts
  • Deli meat
  • Soft raw cheeses

Should I take a prenatal?

This is a topic worthy of its own post, which is coming soon.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Maybe your brand new to real food and feeling completely overwhelmed, or perhaps you’re on a tight budget and acquiring all of these foods in their best form is not always possible. Take a deep breath, relax, and focus on what changes feel doable right now. Nourishing yourself is a marathon, not a sprint, and every step in a healthy direction will provide lasting benefits for both you and your baby.

Book Recommendations

If you want to rock your pregnancy and birth, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth. It’s an excellent resource that’s written from an evidence-based, natural perspective.

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Mediterranean Zucchini Pasta With Basil, Sundried Tomatoes & Parmesan https://www.mommypotamus.com/zucchini-pasta-recipe/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/zucchini-pasta-recipe/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 12:14:18 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=4301 So, it turns out you can’t turn a zucchini into a battery or elect it as Mayor. This time of year, as zucchini starts taking over gardens and farmer’s markets, there’s only one thing to do . . . eat it fifty delectable ways. Oh yes, it’s possible! Forget mushy steamed zucchini, we’re talking zucchini […]

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So, it turns out you can’t turn a zucchini into a battery or elect it as Mayor. This time of year, as zucchini starts taking over gardens and farmer’s markets, there’s only one thing to do . . . eat it fifty delectable ways. Oh yes, it’s possible! Forget mushy steamed zucchini, we’re talking zucchini pizza crust, zucchini pasta carbonara, skillet pesto chicken, gluten-free zucchini bread, and this bold and zesty Mediterranean zucchini pasta.

Now, as I mentioned in this cauliflower “mashed” potato recipe, it really annoys me when a food **looks** like an old favorite but doesn’t taste anything like it. To say I was skeptical about the whole zucchini noodle thing would be an understatement, but I absolutely love this dish! It’s so satisfying, and the mild flavor of the zucchini allows the basil, sundried tomatoes and parmesan to really pop.

I’m not saying it’s “meaning of life, the universe, and everything” happiness in a bowl, but it just might “Oh my gosh maybe this is how noodles were meant to be” happiness. I hope your family loves it as much as we do!

Mediterranean Zucchini Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • 4 large zucchinis
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (where to buy good quality olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomato 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese 1/5 teaspoons sea salt (where to buy good quality salt)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Spiralize the zucchini into noodles – I bought this spiralizer and love how easy it is to use. Easy enough for my kids to use, actually, and since my kids think it’s fun to make the noodles and I’m not one to turn away help in the kitchen, I guess you could say this part takes care of itself now.
  2. Add the olive oil and butter to a large pan and sauté the noodles over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until they reach the level of tenderness your prefer. Remove the noodles from the pan and place them in a serving bowl.
  3. Spoon the shrimp mixture and sauce over the pasta, sprinkle with parmesan, and serve.

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Arnica Cream Recipe (Video Tutorial) https://www.mommypotamus.com/arnica-cream/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/arnica-cream/#comments Thu, 15 Jun 2017 18:06:31 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=61299 You probably haven’t summited any Swiss mountains lately, but chances are you’ve powerlifted a preschooler or four bags of groceries . . . or both together! Fortunately for people like us, an herb traditionally used by Swiss mountaineers for muscle soreness also works for non-glamourously acquired bumps, bruises, and muscle aches – Arnica montana.  Sometimes called wolf’s […]

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You probably haven’t summited any Swiss mountains lately, but chances are you’ve powerlifted a preschooler or four bags of groceries . . . or both together! Fortunately for people like us, an herb traditionally used by Swiss mountaineers for muscle soreness also works for non-glamourously acquired bumps, bruises, and muscle aches – Arnica montana. 

Sometimes called wolf’s bane or leopard’s bane – arnica is thought to ease discomfort and improve blood flow to the area, which carries with it nutrients needed to support healing and helps to clear away waste.

According to The New York Times, “scientists have found good evidence that it works” – specifically, they mention a couple of studies that found it was as helpful for reducing pain and stiffness.

That’s why when I injured my shoulder recently, I made up a batch of arnica cream to use along with physical therapy. It was SO HELPFUL, and so easy to make, too! I’ve included a video tutorial so that you can see for yourself. 🙂

So, what is arnica cream?

Arnica cream is made from oil that has been infused with the helpful properties of arnica flowers. You can make arnica at home using the instructions at the bottom of this page or buy it here – it’s pricey, which is why I prefer to make mine!

Arnica oil is not an essential oil – it’s made by placing whole arnica flowers in a carrier oil such as olivesweet almond, or apricot to extract the beneficial properties of the flowers. Essential oils only extract the light aromatic compounds in a highly concentrated form. Both can be very useful depending on the circumstances, but for this cream you want whole arnica flowers.

Should I use arnica cream or arnica oil?

It’s totally up to you. Here are the main pros/cons of both:

* Arnica Oil Pros: No water in the formula means a much longer shelf life. Helpful if you only need a small amount and want to save the rest for later.
* Arnica Oil Cons: Can feel a bit greasy when applied. (Not a huge issue, though. Depending on the oil that is used it can absorb fairly quickly.)

* Arnica Cream Pros: Feels less greasy when applied.
* Arnica Cream Cons: Shelf life is much shorter unless you use a natural preservative.

Arnica oil/cream is meant for use on unbroken skin, and can generally be applied daily for up to six weeks. And in case you need it, here’s some info on using arnica while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Don’t have time to make your own?

No problem, there are store-bought options. This cream has the cleanest list of ingredients I’ve found so far, although I wish they disclosed what their botanical blend includes. For arnica infused oil options, I like this one.

How To Make Arnica Cream

Makes about 7 ounces

  • 1 tablespoon beeswax pellets (Find them here)
  • 1 tablespoon shea butter (I use unrefined shea butter since many refined types are extracted using hexane.)
  • 1/2 cup arnica infused oil (Instructions for making it below. If you want to buy some, this bottle is just under 1/2 cup, so you can top it off with a bit of olive oil for use in this recipe)
  • 2/3 cup water (either distilled or boiled for 5 minutes and allowed to cool to just above room temperature)
  • Up to 120 drops of one of the following essential oils – copaiba, lavender, black pepper, cedarwood, sweet marjoram, helichrysum (This recipe is a 2% dilution, which is considered safe for daily body application)
  • Optional – 1 teaspoon of this naturally derived preservative made from Leuconostoc kimchii, the bacteria found in kimchi. Though I have some on hand, I rarely add it in because I typically use up a batch within a week.

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Measure your ingredients. If you’re not using distilled water you’ll need to boil the water for 5 minutes to eliminate any bacteria that might be present. I recommend boiling twice the amount of water you plan to use because some will evaporate as it boils.

2. If you’re boiling your water: Boil your water for five minutes. As it’s cooling, place the shea butter and beeswax in a separate pot and melt over low heat. When the shea/beeswax is melted, add in the infused arnica oil and stir until combined. Using your stove, try to get the water and oils to be roughly the same temperature – warm, but so hot that you can’t comfortably place a (clean!) pinky in it.

If you’re using distilled water: Place the shea butter and beeswax in a small pan and melt over low heat. As they shea/beeswax is melting, place the water in a separate pot and warm over very low heat. Once the shea/beeswax is melted, add in the infused arnica oil and stir until combined. Using your stove, try to get the water and oils to be roughly the same temperature – warm, but so hot that you can’t comfortably place a (clean!) pinky in it.

4. Add the water and oil mixture a wide mouth jar. Place your immersion blender at the bottom of the jar and turn it on. Allow it to whir for about 30 seconds without moving the immersion blender at all. Once the liquid at the bottom emulsifies (begins to look like lotion instead of separating like oil and water), begin raising the immersion blender in the liquid to complete the immersion.5. Once the lotion is emulsified, let it sit for 5-7 minutes and then blend it again to make sure it doesn’t separate as it cools. If using a natural preservative, add stir it in with this last mixing.

Storage and Shelf Life

Without a preservative I store my cream in the fridge and use within two weeks. With a preservative it can be stored at room temperature for up to three months.

Troubleshooting

If you whip up a batch and it separates, don’t worry! Just melt everything over low heat and blend it again, taking care to give it a whir with the immersion blender every 5-7 minutes until it is completely cool.

How To Make Arnica Oil

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • About 3/4 cup arnica flowers (Find them here)
  • About 1 cup (or a little more) of carrier oil – I used apricot kernel for this batch, but olivesweet almond, and avocado are also good options. Coconut oil is not recommended because it tends to thicken and make the cream solid.

Instructions (Quick Method)

  1. Place arnica flowers in a clean, dry glass jar. Next, pour in the carrier oil – add enough so that the petals are covered by about one inch of oil. My petals usually float when I first pour in the oil, so I watch the bottom of the jar to make sure I’ve added enough. The petals expand at bit as they soak, so it’s important to add extra so that they stay covered.
  2. Cover the jar with a lid and give it a good shake.
  3. Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of your slow cooker and place the jar inside. Add enough water to cover about half the jar and set the slow cooker to the lowest setting – I set mine to “warm.” Allow to infuse for 2-6 hours, then strain out the oil using cheesecloth and pour the oil in a clean, glass jar. Store in a cool, dark cabinet until needed.
  4. Instructions (Slow Method)

    This traditional method may be the best option for preserving certain delicate constituents found in arnica. However, sometimes it’s just not practical to wait 4-6 weeks for a batch. For those times, use the method above.

    1. Place arnica flowers in a clean, dry glass jar. Next, pour in the carrier oil – add enough so that the petals are covered by about one inch of oil. As mentioned above, this is to keep the flowers submerged as they expand.
    2. Cover the jar with a tight fitting lid and give it a good shake. Put the jar in a paper bag and place it near a warm, sunny window. Some people skip the paper bag, but others believe it helps protect some of the valuable constituents found in arnica from breaking down due to UV light. Shake the jar every few days.
    3. Once the oil has been infusing for 4-6 weeks, strain out the herbs and pour the oil in a clean, glass jar. Store in a cool, dark cabinet until needed.

Want more research-backed natural remedies?

No problem, I’ve created a free ebook for you – Kitchen Apothecary: 25+ Natural Remedies Using Ingredients From Your Pantry – as a gift for signing up for my newsletter. You’ll also get updates when I post about safe essential oils for pregnant/breastfeeding mamas, exclusive gifts and coupons (I was able to give away a jar of free coconut oil to anyone who wanted it recently!), plus other goodies.

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https://www.mommypotamus.com/arnica-cream/feed/ 9 Arnica Cream Recipe (Video Tutorial) Swiss mountaineers use arnica for bumps, bruises and muscles soreness, and according to The New York Times, "scientists have found good evidence that it works" Arnica Cream arnica-cream arnica-oil arnica-cream-oil arnica-oil-recipe
Cherry Almond Ice Cream Recipe https://www.mommypotamus.com/cherry-ice-cream-recipe/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/cherry-ice-cream-recipe/#comments Sun, 18 Jun 2017 18:58:22 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=61073 A few weeks ago I promised my littles a movie and homemade ice cream, then promptly dipped my shoulder in red hot lava damaged my rotator cuff while paddle boarding. If you’ve ever broken a promise to three excited kids, you know exactly what happened next. I made the ice cream. Okay, “made” is probably […]

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A few weeks ago I promised my littles a movie and homemade ice cream, then promptly dipped my shoulder in red hot lava damaged my rotator cuff while paddle boarding. If you’ve ever broken a promise to three excited kids, you know exactly what happened next.

I made the ice cream.

Okay, “made” is probably a stretch. I dumped a bunch of stuff from the fridge in the ice cream maker, added some maple syrup, and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, it. was. awesome.

Of course, I had to make it again using proper methods and measurements just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke . . . and also because I’d polished off the first batch. The result is this simple, creamy recipe that’s reminiscent of cherry amaretto, only better because it’s made with wholesome ingredients. We’re talking dark cherries folded into sweet cream and churned into get-your-own-bowl-this-is-mine yumminess.

Cherry Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups cream

4 egg yolks

3/4 cup maple syrup (where to buy)

1.5 tablespoons almond extract (where to buy)

1/8 teaspoon sea salt (this is what I use)

1 1/4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and chopped into quarters

1 tablespoon gelatin (like this)

Natural red food coloring – optional (This is what I used)

Instructions

Add 2 cups cream egg yolks, maple syrup, almond extract and salt to a blender container.

Warm the remaining 1 cup cream in a small pan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cream and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Add the gelatin mixture to the blender and mix until thoroughly combined.

Place the cream mixture and cherries in a bowl and chill for 2-4 hours, then pour mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the steps recommended by the manufacturer. If desired, add natural red food coloring as it churns until it reaches the depth of color you prefer. Serve immediately as soft-serve ice cream or place in the freezer until firm. If you allow to freeze until firm allow the ice cream to soften for 10 or so minutes before scooping it into bowls.

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Arnica For Bumps, Bruises, and Muscle Aches https://www.mommypotamus.com/arnica/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/arnica/#comments Wed, 14 Jun 2017 15:28:10 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=61281 While many herbs have a whole list of uses, like dandelion for detox, digestion and hormone balance, arnica is really good in one area: bumps and bruises! Arnica montana – sometimes called wolf’s bane or leopard’s bane – is a yellow mountain daisy that is believed to help dilate capillaries and stimulate the flow of white […]

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While many herbs have a whole list of uses, like dandelion for detox, digestion and hormone balance, arnica is really good in one area: bumps and bruises! Arnica montana – sometimes called wolf’s bane or leopard’s bane – is a yellow mountain daisy that is believed to help dilate capillaries and stimulate the flow of white blood cells, and has been traditionally used by Swiss mountaineers to prevent muscle soreness. (source)

According to The New York Times, “scientists have found good evidence that it works. One randomized study published in 2007 looked at 204 people with osteoarthritis in their hands and found that an arnica gel preparation worked just as well as daily ibuprofen, and with minimal side effects. Another study of 79 people with arthritis of the knee found that when patients used arnica gel twice daily for three to six weeks, they experienced significant reductions in pain and stiffness and had improved function.”

Arnica has some safety precautions that we haven’t really been concerned with for many of the other herbs in our apothecary – for example, plantain, calendula, yellow dock, and dandelion are all pretty safe both internally and externally. Arnica should only be used externally, should only be used on closed wounds, and should only be used for a short time – up to about six weeks. These criteria make arnica perfect for temporary issues, like

  • bumps with pain and swelling
  • sprains with pain and swelling
  • bruises
  • sore or strained muscles

How does arnica work?

Arnica’s therapeutic action comes from its ability to support vasodilation in areas where it is rubbed on the skin. This helps to increase blood flow, which – as mentioned in this article on ice vs. heat therapy for injuries – brings nutrients needed to support healing to the affected area while also carrying away waste from the damaged area.

Herbalist Kami McBride even uses arnica preventatively. If she knows she will be using her muscles more than normal, like for a particularly long hike, she will slather arnica-infused oil all over her body beforehand to reduce muscle soreness the next day. (Source: Handcrafted Healing Herbal Oils Course)

Uses of arnica (And where to buy it)

Arnica flowers are most often used as an infused oil or cream – click here for my homemade arnica oil and arnica cream recipes.

Something to keep in mind when purchasing arnica is that because arnica it’s listed as a species to watch by United Plant Savers (not currently endangered but potentially at risk), it’s important to purchase arnica that is specifically designated as sustainably harvested or cultivated. Sustainably harvest plants are typically gathered from the wild, but some is left behind to ensure that the species remains healthy. Cultivated arnica is grown on farms that have dedicated themselves to making it available for therapeutic use. Purchasing cultivated herbs is a great way to support farmers and the continued production of valuable herbs.

I recently bought arnica from this company, which cultivates arnica in Mexico.

A teeny tiny jar of arnica cream can cost more than $30, but learning to make your arnica oil and/or arnica cream is super cost effective, and very handy for those bumpy bruisy situations. You can find my arnica cream recipe here.

Contraindications for arnica

Arnica is an herb to respect. Internally, it can damage many organs, and externally it can cause irritation in some people. It should never be used in the following scenarios:

  • Internal use
  • Externally on open wounds
  • Long-term (more than six weeks on a daily basis)
  • Before surgery
  • With blood thinners

It is an aster, so be careful if you have a ragweed allergy. Also, if you use it according to recommended guidelines and you experience irritation, discontinue use and switch to another herb.

Is arnica safe for pregnancy and/or nursing?

In addition to the safety precautions above, the Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd edition, mentions overdoses of arnica infusions and flower tinctures have led to miscarriage. They reported no studies confirming the safety of arnica during lactation. Aviva Romm, MD, RH (AHG), and midwife recommends topical use of arnica for backaches, sore muscles, sore joints, and/or breast pain during pregnancy, even daily, in The Natural Pregnancy Book, 3rd edition. (Keep in mind, of course, that in general it is only used daily for up to six weeks.)

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Should You Ice or Heat An Injury? https://www.mommypotamus.com/ice-or-heat/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/ice-or-heat/#comments Sat, 10 Jun 2017 18:12:12 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=61262 “You should put some ice on that.” <– We’ve all heard it, right? Inflammation has become sort of a bad word in the health world, which is no surprise if you think about how many conditions are related to chronic inflammation – dementia, skin issues, lung issues, heart issues, digestive issues, and depression for example. So we eat foods […]

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“You should put some ice on that.” <– We’ve all heard it, right? Inflammation has become sort of a bad word in the health world, which is no surprise if you think about how many conditions are related to chronic inflammation – dementia, skin issues, lung issues, heart issues, digestive issues, and depression for example.

So we eat foods that “fight inflammation” and ice injuries to keep inflammation down. But what if inflammation is sometimes our friend? When I injured my rotator cuff while paddle boarding recently, I received a lot of advice on how to treat it. Not all of it made sense to me, so I decided to dig into the research. I also asked my co-author for this article, Dr. Lori Rose, for her thoughts, which we’ll be sharing below.

As always, please keep in mind that this article is for informational purposes only and is based on the opinions of Dr. Rose and myself. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment – a full disclaimer can be found hereOkay, let’s jump in!

How inflammation supports injury healing

In the case of acute injuries (assuming no infection), the swelling and pain we experience actually supports the healing process. Localized inflammation makes blood vessels more leaky, which allows white blood cell to easily travel into the damaged area and support healing. (source)

If we take anti-inflammatories and use ice, we slow down the healing process by reducing the access our white blood cells have to the area. Furthermore, by icing we reduce blood flow, which is what the body uses to bring nutrients needed to create new tissue as well as carry away the waste from the damaged area. When blood flow is reduced, the “trash” that the white blood cells are trying to remove from the area get stuck there, joints get stagnant, scar tissue forms, and the healing process is impaired. (source)

If you’re thinking, “Hey, this sounds a lot like what pediatricians are saying about fevers now – that they’re a natural defense mechanism and reducing them may prolongs illness.” Yep, it is!

While it’s always a good idea to get checked out if an injury is serious or an infection is present, natural responses such as fever and swelling serve a purpose. The main benefit of reducing inflammation and blood flow is that it reduces pain. And while that’s important, there are other options for soothing discomfort that don’t suppress inflammation and blood flow. So if we aren’t icing and reducing inflammation, what exactly should we be doing?

MEAT instead of RICE

Nope, we’re not talking about the paleo diet. If you look up how to handle an acute injury, you will quickly see the acronym RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate. However, these recommendations are based on alleviating pain and swelling, not supporting the healing process.

RICE is very effective at these goals, but in focusing on pain and swelling reduction we actually slow the natural repair response. In fact, here is the creator of RICE taking back his advice based upon years and years of evidence showing that RICE is not only ineffective but actually damaging in some cases. Slowly but surely modern methods of addressing acute injuries are “catching up” to the methods used by our ancestors, using another acronym: MEAT.

What is MEAT?

MEAT stands for movement, exercise, analgesics (not anti-inflammatories), and treatments (as in other treatments like physical therapy and/or massage). Combining this with hot, blood moving herbs (like cayenne salve or a ginger compress) that increase circulation to the area can support the flow of blood, which as mentioned earlier brings healing nutrients to the area and takes away the damaged “trash.”

Practitioners “in the know” may use ice, but they use it very differently: they alternate between cold and hot, cold and hot, cold and hot, to bring blood to the area, then send it away repeatedly to support the carrying of nutrients to the site and the carrying of wastes away. After seeking help from a local massage therapist and my chiropractor, I finally saw a physical therapist about my shoulder and this is what he recommended. Because arnica is so helpful for bumps, bruises and sore muscles, also made up a batch of arnica cream to help ease my discomfort.

Do you know any icers who need to read this article? Click one of the links below to share.

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5 Benefits of Dry Brushing (And How To Do It) https://www.mommypotamus.com/dry-brushing/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/dry-brushing/#comments Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:29:52 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=59947 When I first heard about dry brushing a few years ago, all I could think was “Who are these people that brush their skin? I’m doing good to brush my hair and change out of yoga pants.” Although it’s often recommended for improving skin softness and texture, I did a little reading and it turns out that […]

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When I first heard about dry brushing a few years ago, all I could think was “Who are these people that brush their skin? I’m doing good to brush my hair and change out of yoga pants.” Although it’s often recommended for improving skin softness and texture, I did a little reading and it turns out that the benefits are more than skin deep. This ancient technique is considered helpful for supporting lymph flow and detoxification, as well as immune function and balancing hormones. (source) Obviously, I had to give it a try.

What is dry brushing?

According to Todd Caldecott, an Ayurvedic herbalist who has studied the ancient healing modality in India, dry brushing is an Ayurvedic practice called gharsana. (source) The goal is to move lymph towards the heart to mix it with blood, with the ultimate goal of sending metabolic waste and stored toxins to the kidneys and liver for elimination. If you’re not familiar with it, the “lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.”  (source)

Dry brushing is commonly combined with stimulating and drying powdered herbs like triphala ( a blend of amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki fruits), trikatu (a blend of long pepper, ginger and black pepper – see Alchemy of Herbs for a homemade recipe) or ginger to assist in improving circulation and the flushing out of metabolic waste.

Benefits of Dry Brushing

Dry brushing was historically used for those with the Ayurvedic “Kapha constitutions” – think Type B personalities – and some health conditions. However, the practice is probably additionally just as useful now for Type A folks who spend a lot of time in front of a computer, thus leading to stagnant circulation and lymph. In a nutshell, it’s beneficial for:

#1- Immune Function

Dry brushing supports lymph flow, which is essential to immune function. If you have a few minutes to be impressed, I highly recommend this video for a visual explanation of how the lymphatic system supports immune function.

If not, here it is in a nutshell: When most of us get an infection like a wound, the infection stays localized to that area. That’s because contrary to the common perception that most infections are in our blood, they’re often in other tissues. In those cases, the body uses lymph fluid to draw the bacteria or virus into a nearby lymph node, which is standing by with B and T cells. Those cells are part of our adaptive immune system, which means that they are able to adapt to address the specific infection rather than mount the generalized response you see from macrophages.

#2- Hormone Balance

Because the lymphatic system helps to circulate hormones throughout the body, it follows that stagnant lymph may not get hormones where they need to be as effectively. Another technique that supports lymph flow – manual lymphatic drainage – is sometimes recommended by fertility experts for couple that are trying to conceive. (source)

#3 – Detoxification

The lymphatic system is one of two circulation systems in the body – the other is the cardiovascular system. While the cardiovascular system pumps blood, the lymphatic system collects blood that leaks out of vessels and returns it to it’s place. That’s not it’s only job, though. It also distributes immune factors and hormones (see above) while carrying away metabolic waste and toxins.

#4 – Soft, Smooth Skin

Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and encourages the production of new cells.

#5 – Emotional Groundedness

Dry brushing is also a great way to improve our mind-body connection. Often we spend all day go-go-going, juggling to-do lists and schedules – sometimes this mental load can keep us “in our head” and feeling disconnected from our physical selves.

Spending a few minutes dry brushing (try deep breathing at the same time if you want to multi-task those benefits) at the beginning or end of each day can re-establish that connection and help us feel more grounded. If that sounds a little woo to you, here’s why it works: dry brushing helps to balance the autonomic nervous system, which supports adrenal function by reducing stress.  (source)

Is dry brushing right for everyone?

Like with most things, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to life that works for everyone. Some traditional cultures flourished on a high-fat diet while others have done well on a high-carb diet, and where we fall on that continuum is probably influenced at least in part on our genetic inheritance. In the same way, whether or not you love dry brushing has to do with your bioindividuality. There are also some instances in which dry brushing is discouraged – over varicose veins, for example.

How to dry brush

First, make sure you have a non-synthetic brush to use. I’ve purchased more than a few because apparently I’m the Goldilocks of dry brushes – this is the set I use now.  It’s well made and comes with a stiff brush and a softer one, both of which I love.

Before getting started, take a moment to notice whether or not you’re thirsty. It’s important to be well hydrated so that metabolic waste and toxins are moved toward the body’s exit systems. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to hydration levels after dry brushing. It’s not necessary to guzzle water, just listen to your body. (I also recommend adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon to water in order to improve hydration levels.)

Now, to the actual technique. Most dry brushing tutorials say that you should brush toward the heart. While that approach can be helpful for improving skin softness and texture, there’s another approach that I believe may be more helpful for improving lymph flow. It’s based on the techniques used in Manual Lymph Drainage Massage, which was developed by Emil Vodder PhD and his wife, Estrid Vodder, ND.

The benefit of this approach, as explained this book by UK International Institute of Health and Holistic Therapies member Mia Campbell, goes something like this:

Imagine you have a bag full of cake frosting and the tip is clogged. If you try to apply pressure by squeezing the very back of the bag forward you might eventually release the clog, but it will be more difficult and you have less control over how much frosting is released. It’s better to start by opening up the tip using pressure applied close to the area, then working from there. Although brushing toward the heart does basically lead lymph toward the lymphatic watersheds (drains) in the body, it assumes they’re already open which is not always the case.

The technique I use works to open the lymphatic drain by the heart first, then works out from there. The technique I use is described in Mia’s book, but there is a similar approach outlined in the video below. Please note that in sharing this video I am not endorsing all the views expressed. I do, however, believe it contains valuable information that was very generously shared, and am very thankful for that. 🙂

When, where and how often should I dry brush?

Most people say that morning is best because they find dry brushing to be energizing. However, a slightly less intense session can be very relaxing before bed, so do what works best with your schedule. Regarding where to dry brush, I think the shower is the best place because any dead skin that sloughs off is rinsed away without cleanup.

Regarding frequency, some people dry brush a few times per week, while others dry brush daily. It’s best to start slow – a couple of times a week – and work up to a point that feels right for you.

Do you know someone who could benefit from dry brushing?  Click any of the buttons below to share.

Additional source for this article: The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs

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Easy Chicken Salad Recipe With Apples https://www.mommypotamus.com/chicken-salad-recipe/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/chicken-salad-recipe/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2011 13:36:29 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=9498 Light and delicious, this easy chicken salad recipe is my favorite ways to keep lunch simple. One of my “tricks” for avoiding burnout in the kitchen is to double batches when it makes sense. That usually means that I bake a couple chickens together in the oven sometime early in the week – one for dinner, […]

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Light and delicious, this easy chicken salad recipe is my favorite ways to keep lunch simple. One of my “tricks” for avoiding burnout in the kitchen is to double batches when it makes sense. That usually means that I bake a couple chickens together in the oven sometime early in the week – one for dinner, and one to use later for tortilla soup, homemade chicken soup, lettuce wraps or this chicken salad.

This recipe is sweet with a bit of tang, and the apples and nuts give it just the right amount of crunch. My kids gobble it up when served over a salad or with crackers, or as a sandwich. I hope your family loves it as much as we do!

(Psst! In case you need it, here’s a tutorial on how to bake a whole chicken, and here’s how to use the bones to make rich, nutritious bone broth.)

Easy Chicken Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I use my homemade mayo recipe)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 cups diced apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (buy it here or use homemade apple cider vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey
  • sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and honey.
  2. In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, nuts, apples, onion and celery
  3. Add the liquid mixture to the large bowl and combine thoroughly, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Want more easy meal ideas?

I’ve put together a list of 25+ quick, healthy meals that help me get dinner on the table no matter what the day brings. I hope you find it as helpful as I have.

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What is SIBO? Symptoms and Treatment https://www.mommypotamus.com/sibo/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/sibo/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 15:45:24 +0000 https://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=59849 If you’ve been following nutritional health advice lately, no doubt you’ve heard about the importance of probiotics and prebiotics for gut health. After all, health starts with the gut, and a healthy microbiome is crucial to vibrant health. You’ve probably also heard that we should be decreasing our antibiotic use while increasing our intake of […]

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If you’ve been following nutritional health advice lately, no doubt you’ve heard about the importance of probiotics and prebiotics for gut health. After all, health starts with the gut, and a healthy microbiome is crucial to vibrant health. You’ve probably also heard that we should be decreasing our antibiotic use while increasing our intake of fermented foods, possibly taking probiotics, and eating lots of inulin and resistant starch prebiotics to feed our gut bacteria and keep them happy.

For the majority of the population, this is solid, sound advice. However, if you have SIBO, which stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth, all these wonderful practices can actually make you feel horrible. It can be really frustrating to realize that the steps that are making your friends, spouse, and kids feel incredible is making you feel worse and worse, but there is a reason and you can do something about it.

When SIBO is present, practitioners recommend decreasing fruits and vegetables, decreasing fermented foods and probiotics, and possibly increasing antibiotics (including natural ones). Pretty much, you should be doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing!

One quick note: Please keep in mind that this article is for informational purposes only and is based on the opinions of the authors. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment – a full disclaimer can be found hereOkay, let’s jump in!

What is SIBO?

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is exactly what it sounds like: there are more bacteria in your small intestines than should be there. Many people think these are “bad” bacteria, and sometimes they can be, but more often it is the beneficial bacteria from the large intestines that have migrated into the wrong section of your digestive tract. Essentially, it’s usually the good guys being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The immediate problem with this is your small intestine is, unsurprisingly, very small in diameter, and the gas released from the bacteria that your roomy large intestine can handle causes extreme pain and bloating when it fills up your small intestine.

The indirect problem with this is that it causes inflammation which can stretch apart the cells of small intestine, eventually causing leaky gut. Leaky gut is considered by many experts to be a root cause of many common health issues: autoimmune issues, allergies, skin problems, depression and anxiety issues, hormone imbalances, food allergies, digestive issues, and more. Even the New York Times is talking about it these days.

SIBO Symptoms

The most obvious symptoms of SIBO are:

  • Painful gas, especially after eating fruits and veggies, fermented foods, prebiotics, or probiotics
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion

However, there are also some symptoms that can be caused by or even lead to SIBO, sort of like a vicious circular cycle:

  • Leaky gut
  • Skin issues such as acne, eczema – One study found that SIBO is 10 times more prevalent in individuals with acne rosacea vs. individuals without acne
  • Hormone imbalances (thyroid, cortisol, sex hormones)
  • Diarrhea – most common with hydrogen-dominant SIBO
  • Constipation – most common with methane-dominant SIBO
  • Other digestive issues, such as alternating between diarrhea and constipation
  • Cognitive/emotional issues (anxiety, depression, brain fog, memory issues)
  • Immune system dysfunction (autoimmune or allergies)
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Fatigue
  • Nutritional deficiencies, particularly Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Histamine intolerance
  • Weight gain – ” In one study, mice were given a methane-producing archaea and it caused an increase in body fat. In human studies, it was shown that subjects with higher methane levels in their breath tests had higher BMIs.” (The SIBO Solution)

With so many symptoms that can indicate that you might have SIBO, it can be frustrating to try and self-diagnose. Furthermore, there are many other things which aren’t SIBO-related that can cause the above symptoms, so it’s important to get testing done to be sure. Luckily there are some pretty straight forward tests that you can do to know for sure.

Is there a SIBO Test?

There are two main types of SIBO, hydrogen and methane, which have their own specific tests. Furthermore, you can have both types of SIBO at the same time caused by two different types of organisms that require two different types of protocols. Hydrogen gas is released from bacteria in the small intestines, while methane gas is released from a different kind of organism called archaea. If you’ve never heard of them before, archaea were once thought to be bacteria, but it turns out they’re part of a different kingdom of organisms. It’s important to get both tests done to see which organisms you are starting with before moving forward with a SIBO protocol.

There are two main types of SIBO, hydrogen and methane. Hydrogen SIBO occurs when hydrogen gas is released from bacteria in the small intestines, while the methane form happens when a different kind of organism – archaea – produce methane. It’s important to test for both because they require slightly different protocols. It is possible to have both at the same time.

Which test is best?

The most accurate, least invasive, and cost-friendly SIBO tests are breath tests. (source) However, you must insist on getting both the hydrogen breath test and methane breath test for an accurate representation of what is going on in your gut. (source) If you only get the hydrogen test but you have archea present, you’re likely to get a false negative even if you do have hydrogen producing bacteria present. That’s because archaea eat hydrogen and turn it into methane, so they “hide” the hydrogen the bacteria are producing.

The hydrogen breath test will measure the presence of hydrogen-producing bacteria in the small intestines, while the methane breath test will measure the presence of methane-producing archaea.

Lactulose breath test

The lactulose test is a 3-hour test compared to the glucose test, which is a 60-minute test.  While the 60-minute test option sounds more attractive, it can result in a false negative. It takes time for gases to travel from your intestines, into your blood, and out through your lungs. To avoid having to have a future retest, the most prudent thing to do is start with the lactulose test for both hydrogen and methane. (source) These tests must be requested by a doctor, but can be taken at home following a 12-hour fast and a special diet for accurate test results.

What causes SIBO?

SIBO can be caused by:

  • Stress
  • Inflammatory diets
  • Medications that decrease gut motility (the transit of contents through the bowel) and/or digestive enzymes
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Insulin resistance/carbohydrate malabsorption
  • Antibiotics and subsequent microbiome imbalance
  • Low stomach acid – “Gastric acid not only helps digest food, but also suppresses ingested bacteria naturally. So, low gastric acid is a double-edged sword. Bacteria proliferate because there is so many undigested carbs to feed off of, and they continue to proliferate because there isn’t enough gastric acid to suppress growth.” (The SIBO Solution)

If SIBO is caused by inflammation from stress or inflammatory foods, then modifications need to be made to diet and lifestyle. If the cause is low digestive enzymes, supplementation may be necessary to increase digestive strength. If underlying factors aren’t addressed, then the conditions which led to SIBO remain and the bacteria are likely to regrow. A successful protocol should include not only the reduction of the bacteria themselves, but also an effort to change the internal terrain so that the bacteria won’t be allowed to regrow. This will include

  • stress reduction
  • an anti-inflammatory diet (more on this below)
  • an increase in digestive enzymes through bitters, whole foods with potassium, drinking liquids away from meals, and/or a decrease in offending medications
  • supporting detox organs
  • creating a blood sugar friendly diet
  • focusing on creating a balance in gut motility with appropriate supplements and medications

Furthermore, if the SIBO ultimately resulted in leaky gut, then gut-healing foods, supplements, and herbs will also need to be included to return gut function to balance in the long-term.

Treating SIBO

Once you have confirmed that you have SIBO, it’s very important to understand the difference between the way conventional medicine handles SIBO and the way holistic practitioners handle SIBO.  It is also very important to be open minded about treatment options, because SIBO is very different from any other imbalance.

The first step in healing from SIBO is getting the bacteria out of the small intestine. Conventional medicine handles this with antibiotics, while holistic methods handle this with lifestyle and diet changes as well as antibiotics, which are sometimes herbal and sometimes prescription.

Antibiotics, either conventional or herbal in nature, can be very useful in decreasing the bacterial overgrowth. However, here are two things you need to know:

    1. Archaea are resistant to antibiotics, which makes dietary/lifestyle changes and addressing any underlying issues even more important for restoring balance.
    2. SIBO has an extremely high rate of reoccurrence when addressed with just antibiotics alone. This is because while the antibiotics address the symptom of SIBO, it does not address the cause.

Why consider an herbal approach to SIBO?

In The SIBO Solution, author Sylvie McCracken outlines three reasons:

  • Antibiotic resistance – “As researchers point out in an article in Gastroenterology, SIBO patients often require multiple rounds or continuous courses of antibiotic therapy. To prevent resistance, they recommend rotating antibiotic regimens to prevent resistance.” However, herbs “work on multiple levels in the body, so resistance is less likely to occur.” (The SIBO Solution)
    Fewer potential side effects
    Potentially more effective

Regarding effectiveness, here’s what Sylvie has to say:

Why would a natural substance be more effective than the prescription drugs which scientists worked for years to develop? The book Herbal Antibiotics by Stephan Harrod Buhner describes it well. He talks about how pharmaceutical antibiotics are isolated chemicals—meaning they are one chemical. Because they are only one thing, it is easier for bacteria to adapt to them and develop a resistance.

By contrast, herbs are made up of many compounds. For example, garlic (which is one of the best known natural antibiotics) contains dozens of compounds. All of these compounds work together and can attack bacteria on multiple levels. It is much harder for bacteria to adapt to herbal antibiotics because of how complex the herbs’ structures are.

Few studies have been done on herbal therapies for SIBO, but one did find that 46% of individuals who opted for herbal therapy tested negative after one round of treatment, while only 34% of rifaximin (an antibiotic commonly used for SIBO) users tested negative. (Herbal Antibiotics)

What is a SIBO Diet?

A SIBO diet requires a bit of cognitive dissonance. To decrease the bacteria overgrowth, it’s recommended that individuals to cut out all fermentable foods, including many fruits and vegetables, fermented foods, foods high in inulin and resistant starch, and probiotics.

For individuals with moderate to severe cases, a SIBO diet often begins with an elemental liquid diet or an Ayurvedic gradualism diet. The SIBO Solution includes real food-based elemental formula recipes along with instructions for implementing the diet, including supplement recommendations.

The second step – or the first step for people with mild cases that skip the first step – is a modified version of the SCD, FODMAP, and/or Paleo diet using whole foods. One example of a needed modification is that the SCD diet allows garlic – which is highly fermentable – and emphasizes fermented foods. In The SIBO Solution, Sylvie includes several helpful lists of foods to include and foods to avoid.

Once tests consistently verify that SIBO is gone, it’s important to focus on slowly restoring the normal gut flora by introducing fermentable foods one at a time, as well as introducing probiotics. Continuing to focus on improving motility, reducing stress, and maintaining an anti-inflammatory, low-toxin, and blood-sugar friendly diet long-term is crucial to making sure the SIBO doesn’t return.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

If you’re considering the SIBO protocol, I highly recommend pickup up a copy of The SIBO Solution. My husband is currently addressing sleep-apnea induced SIBO, where undiagnosed sleep apnea stressed his body to the point of inducing metabolic changes including SIBO. We are now addressing the apnea and SIBO, and Sylvie’s guide has been priceless. It covers everything from testing to supplements to what to eat (including recipes).

Get The SIBO Solution here & use coupon code MOMMYPOTAMUS for 30% off

Do you know someone who would benefit from knowing how to tackle SIBO?  Share this article by clicking one of the links below.

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Skillet Pesto Chicken With Zucchini Pasta https://www.mommypotamus.com/pesto-chicken/ https://www.mommypotamus.com/pesto-chicken/#comments Tue, 20 Jul 2010 12:28:57 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=4305 The bright, fresh flavors of basil and tomato in this skillet pesto chicken remind me of long summer days, frosty glasses of herbal tea, and relaxation. It’s a one-skillet meal, which means fewer dishes to clean up (yay!) and more time to sit around and talk about what we’re thankful for around the table. In place […]

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The bright, fresh flavors of basil and tomato in this skillet pesto chicken remind me of long summer days, frosty glasses of herbal tea, and relaxation. It’s a one-skillet meal, which means fewer dishes to clean up (yay!) and more time to sit around and talk about what we’re thankful for around the table.

In place of traditional pasta, I use julienned zucchini as our noodles – it’s a great way to incorporate extra veggies into my family’s diet and my kids love them. A mandoline slicer like this one makes nice, thick noodles – which are best in this recipe – as does this spiralizer. However, you don’t need either of them to make this recipe – all it takes is a good knife and a few minutes to slice the zucchini into strips by hand.

Looking for more ways to use zucchini?

Every summer the zucchini take over my garden, so I’ve had to come up with a lot of ways to use it. Here are a few of my favorites:

Skillet Pesto Chicken With Zucchini Pasta

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee (where to guy olive oil, where to buy ghee)
  • 1.5 pounds chicken breast, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, diced
  • 1 pound zucchini, julienned (a mandoline like this one makes quick work of slicing)
  • 1/2 cup homemade pesto
  • 1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (optional)
  • Salt to taste – how much you need will depend on whether or not you include the cheese and your personal preference (this is the salt I use)

Instructions

  1. Warm the olive oil/ghee in a large pan over medium heat. Add in the chicken and zucchini and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the chicken is fully cooked, add in the tomatoes and sautee for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the pesto, making sure the chicken and veggies are evenly coated. Sprinkle with cheese if desired, taste and add salt if needed, then serve.

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