These are the top natural inflammation-fighting remedies

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Signs of chronic inflammation can range from skin issues like eczema to the chronic joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis. But while the idea of a body system gone-amok can be overwhelming, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your inflammatory response and improve your health. Read on to learn about inflammation, why it’s important, and the research-backed herbs and self-care that have the greatest anti-inflammatory properties.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural process that your immune system initiates to remove harmful pathogens and promote healing. During an inflammation response, white blood cells release hormones that dilate your blood vessels, increasing blood flow to an injury or infection. This blood flow gives the white blood cells better access to the affected area, where they fight viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and remove dead and injured cells.
 

Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a vital immune response. It occurs over minutes or hours while your body fights pathogens and repairs damaged tissue. Signs of acute inflammation are noticeable — think swelling when you sprain your ankle, the redness from sunburn, or stiffness the day after a workout. 

In chronic inflammation, a haywire immune response simultaneously destroys and repairs your body tissues. Over time, this process can lead to DNA damage which can increase your risk for developing cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, and possibly even depression. 

Scarier still, symptoms of chronic inflammation appear over months or years and are often subtle. Fatigue, all-over pain, mouth sores, rashes, mood disorders, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, and fever are just some of the ways chronic inflammation may manifest.
 

What causes chronic inflammation?

  • Pathogens. If your body’s acute inflammation response can’t get rid of invasive bacteria, protozoa, fungi, or parasites, your immune system may stay activated, leading to chronic inflammation.

  • Autoimmune disorders. In an autoimmune disorder, the immune system attacks your body’s own healthy tissue, resulting in chronic inflammation. In a chicken-or-egg reversal, chronic inflammation may also be a risk factor for autoimmune disorders. 

  • Pollution. Long-term pollution exposure from pesticides to cigarette smoke can lead to oxidative stress and cell damage or death that triggers inflammation over time. 

  • Stress. Chronic emotional stress puts your immune system on high alert, increasing the amount of inflammation-boosting white blood cells in your bloodstream. 

  • Food choices. Red meat, alcohol, refined carbs, and sugar, can worsen inflammation, as can trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil) found in margarine, shortening, and soybean and vegetable oil. 


Foods for natural inflammation relief 

While chronic inflammation can be painful, it doesn’t have to run your life. The foods and herbs that you put in your body can be a powerful way to alter your inflammation levels.  

Leafy greens, berries (and most colorful fruits), green tea, nuts, seeds, beans, olive oil, and fatty fish like mackerel can all help reduce inflammation. 


Herbs to fight inflammation

When it comes to inflammation, turmeric, white willow, uva ursi, and Gotu Kola (a.k.a. Centella) are potent herbs that work best combined in professional blends

  • Turmeric. Curcumin, a substance found in the spice turmeric, is widely known for its ability to help modulate inflammatory processes. It’s also a tasty seasoning that’s easy to add to your grains, tofu, lean animal protein, or smoothies.

  • White willow. White willow bark (Salix alba) has been used as an anti-inflammatory compound for millennia.  

  • Uva Ursi (Bearberry). In one study, Japanese researchers found that Bearberry leaf decreased swelling and inflammation related to arthritis.  

  • Gotu Kola. Gotu Kola is a nutritionally important plant and potent inflammatory-fighting compound which is valued as a traditional medicine in South East Asia.  


Self-care practices to combat inflammation

  • Moderate exercise.  Regular exercise promotes increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes the health of brain cells and protects them from oxidative stress i.e. damage caused by inflammation.  Exercise also transforms the body on the molecular level, improving cardiovascular health and promoting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity throughout your system. Remember that “moderate” is the key word here. Routinely pushing yourself hard can actually lead to more inflammation.

  • Manage stress.  Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation, so make sure to make time to de-stress in your life.  Good ways to reduce stress include meditation, yoga, or have a provider train you in biofeedback, which some insurance policies cover under mental health care. If human-guided biofeedback isn’t an option, smartphone-based apps and gadgets can help you train you to relax. 


You can’t control everything

While we can influence our levels of chronic inflammation, that doesn’t mean that we have total control over, or responsibility for, our immune system. Chronic inflammation can be a byproduct of many factors from genetics to pollution or limited food options, so it’s important not to blame yourself for your pain, fatigue, or discomfort. 

Instead, focus on the factors that are under your control and do your best to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods, herbs, and habits into your life. Over time, these small changes can help soothe discomfort and reset your immune system.

The best natural relief for acid reflux

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What is acid reflux (a.k.a. heartburn)?

Normally when we eat, food travels through the esophagus and into the stomach, where it’s broken down by digestive acids.  But sometimes that stomach acid travels back up the esophagus, leading to a burning sensation in your stomach, throat, or near your heart—hence acid reflux’s unofficial name, heartburn.

Most people have occasional bouts of reflux, usually from eating large meals, late-night snacking, or consuming certain foods. These reflux triggers work by either slowing digestion or relaxing the valve between the esophagus and stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  When the LES doesn’t tighten as it should, stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus.

What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD?

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a chronic form of heartburn. About 20% of the U.S. population suffers from GERD.  

Without adequate treatment, the condition’s symptoms can lead to complications such as inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus.  According to the American Cancer Society, people who have GERD can also develop a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus which puts them at a higher risk for esophageal cancer. Refluxed stomach acid can also enter the lungs, leading to respiratory problems.  

How can I tell if I have GERD?

GERD can refer to a mild form of acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week, or severe reflux episodes that occur at least once a week.  Not everyone who develops GERD will experience heartburn. You may suffer from GERD if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Chronic heartburn, chest pains and bloating after eating, which may be more severe at nighttime

  • Belching, hiccups, and regurgitation after eating

  • Difficulty swallowing and a full feeling at the base of the throat

  • Chronic hoarseness or cough

  • Poor sleep quality

  • Asthma. Asthma and reflux often go hand-in-hand, though researchers don’t yet know which condition causes the other. 

What puts me at risk for GERD or heartburn? 

There are many risk factors for GERD—some are related to lifestyle, while others are side-effects of existing medical problems or prescriptions. 

Lifestyle 

Pregnancy
Changing hormones during pregnancy slows down the digestive system.  As the uterus expands, it can also push stomach acid into the esophagus, leading to bouts of heartburn or chronic GERD.

Stress
Stress can delay stomach emptying, putting pressure on the LES, which then allows acid to flow back into the esophagus.   

Overeating
Overeating places pressure on the LES, which can lead to acid reflux.  Fried and processed foods, in particular, are harder for the stomach to digest, leading to over-production of stomach acid.

Being overweight or obese
Excess belly fat can put pressure on the LES and digestive organs, worsening GERD symptoms.

Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
Smoking not only raises your esophageal cancer risk but also signals your stomach to produce more acid and prevents the LES from functioning properly, leading to GERD. Regular secondhand smoke exposure can also raise your risk of developing GERD.

Medical Complications 

Enzyme deficiency
Insufficient digestive enzymes can contribute to GERD. Conditions that inflame or damage the pancreas, such as alcohol abuse, celiac disease, or cystic fibrosis, can contribute to enzyme deficiency.  

Drug side effects
Some medications and mineral supplements can irritate the esophagus, worsening reflux pain. These include bisphosphonates used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, some antibiotics, iron or potassium supplements, and NSAID pain relievers.  

Other medications may worsen GERD symptoms by actually increasing acid reflux.  These medications include certain psychoactive medications, sedatives, hormonal medications, and high blood pressure and heart disease medications.  Talk to your health care provider before you start any new medications to ensure that your treatment plan will not worsen your GERD symptoms.

Hiatal hernia
A hiatal hernia happens when the upper portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, blocking the LES from closing completely. 

Severe osteoporosis
Severe osteoporosis can cause posture changes that block food transit through the digestive system, leading to acid reflux.  Medications to treat osteoporosis can also exacerbate GERD. 

How can I make my GERD symptoms go away naturally?

The upside to the many risk factors involved in GERD is that there are also many ways to help reduce reflux frequency or severity.

Dietary changes to treat GERD

Foods to add
Cultured foods like yogurt, kefir, and miso help cultivate healthy intestinal flora. Cooked vegetables are easier to digest than raw ones, so try lightly steaming yours—which also avoids added fat from cooking oil. 

Enzyme-rich papaya (papain) and pineapple (bromelain) make for a refreshing dessert that may help your digestion. That said, papaya and pineapple’s effects on GERD aren’t well-studied, so make sure to listen to your body when adding in new foods. 

Foods to avoid 
For long-term GERD prevention, eliminate fried foods and cut back on red meat—they slow the rate at which your stomach empties, allowing food to travel back to the esophagus. Also steer clear of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods—they boost gastric acidity. Garlic, onions, high-fat dairy, sodas, alcohol, and caffeine (especially coffee) can also contribute to flare-ups, and spicy foods can irritate the esophagus, worsening symptoms.

Herbs to try
If you’d like to try herbal care for your GERD, look for balanced blends that include soothing chamomile, marshmallow root, and slippery elm, with stimulating ginger. Studies show that chamomile can help reduce stomach acid, while marshmallow root and slippery elm provide a mucous-like coating to protect the esophagus and stomach. Ginger, meanwhile, speeds up stomach emptying, decreasing the likelihood that acid will back up into your esophagus. 

Lifestyle changes to reduce GERD symptoms

  • Try to eat when relaxed, at least three hours before bedtime.

  • Eat smaller meals and chew food well. 

  • Don’t lie down after eating, or after drinking caffeinated or carbonated beverages

  • Sleep with your head elevated by an extra pillow or two to prevent acid reflux at night.

  • Don’t wear tight clothes that put pressure on the stomach

  • Quit smoking.  Smoking can increase the production of stomach acid.

  • Lose weight  Weight around the midsection can exert pressure on the stomach and push stomach contents back up the esophagus.

Ask for help if you need it 

Talk to a health care provider if you’re having trouble managing your GERD. In some cases, a doctor may recommend laparoscopic surgery—a minimally invasive procedure that fixes the valve at the bottom of the esophagus.

 But in most cases, a few self-care adjustments can bring relief: slowing down, altering your eating patterns, and giving yourself plenty of time to digest before bed with the help of gentle herbal remedies

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How to care for your sebaceous cysts

What are cysts?

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Cysts are keratin or sebum-filled growths that develop under the skin. They’re common, but can also be painful and embarrassing. 

Most cysts form as a result of damage to the sebaceous gland (which secretes sebum into our hair follicles) or some portion of the hair follicle itself. This damage can result from infection, acne, sun exposure, or injury, and leads to the accumulation of sebum and/or keratin below the skin. Depending on the exact gland or follicle structures involved in the cyst’s formation, a dermatologist may diagnose it as a trichilemmal (pilar) cyst, or the much more common sebaceous (epidermoid) cyst.

What are the symptoms of cysts?

Regardless of how a cyst forms, the result is a raised bump composed of some mix of keratin and sebum that may go away on its own in 2-8 weeks—or it may not. Cysts usually aren’t harmful, but it’s a good idea to consult your health care provider whenever you notice new growths on your skin. If the cyst becomes red and tender, this may indicate that it has ruptured and needs to be drained by a medical professional to avoid infection.

Where do cysts occur on the body?

Cysts may occur anywhere on your body, except your palms and soles of the feet, where there are no hair follicles or sebaceous glands.

What are the risk factors for cysts?   

Smoking, as well as viral, bacterial, or fungal infections can all contribute to cyst formation, as can a rare genetic disorder. Hormones have also been shown to play a role in the development of hair follicle/sebaceous gland structures, and testosterone in particular is implicated in several human skin functions. Changes in testosterone levels are related to excess sebum production and cysts, as well as the development of other skin conditions such as acne. 

How to prevent cysts

A diet rich in antioxidant-rich foods like sweet potatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, and berries  promote skin health, and supplementing with herbal blends with burdock and red clover can also help promote detoxification and immune system health.

Some herbal blends may also help promote healthy shedding of skin cells, reducing the likelihood of cell accumulations that lead to cysts. Look for blends that contain white sage, tremella mushroom, and horsetail. In combination, these herbs may help promote healthy skin texture by assisting cell regeneration and maintaining collagen.

What if my cyst doesn’t go away on its own?

Most of the time, sebaceous cysts don’t need treatment.  If cysts appear, don’t scratch them or attempt to drain them yourself. Wash the cyst and surrounding area with soap and water and apply a warm compress for 20 minutes to help soften the trapped sebum and keratin. This may encourage the cyst to drain on its own (and relieve some discomfort in the process).

If the cysts don’t subside after two weeks to a month or become painful or unsightly, check in with your primary health care provider or a dermatologist. In-office treatment options include:

Incision and drainage.  The doctor makes a small cut in the cyst and then squeezes out the liquid contents (a la Dr. Pimple Popper). This is a quick-fix, but not a lasting one; the cyst may reappear in a few days.

Injection.  The cyst can be injected with steroid medication to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Surgery.  If the cyst gets too large, you may need to have it surgically removes. Minor surgery is more effective than drainage since it reduces the risk that the cyst will grow back.

 Laser treatment.  A doctor will use a carbon dioxide laser vaporizes the cyst. Laser treatment can be very effective, with minimal scarring.

Conclusion

Cysts can be unpleasant to deal with, but are rarely harmful to your health. And while nutritional adjustments and herbal supplementation may help promote healthy skin, they may not be enough to address existing cysts. If your cysts are new or cause you pain, be it emotional or physical, don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider for help managing them.

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Intermittent fasting: the safe way to detox and eat healthy

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Cleanses, fasts, and detox plans abound online, with wellness icons from Gwyneth Paltrow to Dr. Oz plugging complicated deprivation drills. But days-long fasts built around fruit and vegetable juice can encourage disordered eating under the guise of self-care. And while fresh juices may be rich in vitamins and minerals, they lack the protein, fat, and fiber we need to sustain healthy body functions.

Yet, a growing body of research shows that the common-sense advice of eating fresh, whole foods may not be the only key to metabolic health. One form of daily fasting, based on circadian rhythms, may actually jumpstart your digestive system.

Changing when you eat improves your metabolism

Intermittent fasting is a bit of a misnomer, calling to mind skipped lunches and lemon water. But the fast in intermittent fasting refers to a healthy daily period of not eating, i.e. after dinner, while you sleep, and before breakfast. In other words, intermittent fasting (or more accurately, circadian rhythm eating) research shows that all-day grazing, late-night snacking, or irregular meals aren’t great for our health.

That’s because our digestive system (and the microbes it hosts), like all body systems, operates on a 24-hour rhythm requiring periods of rest to remain healthy. Eating during these genetically programmed rest periods taxes digestive organs like the pancreas, which secretes the insulin that moves sugar from your bloodstream to your cells. Insulin then stores any leftover sugar in your liver and muscles. If your liver has more sugar than it needs, it converts it into fat, leading to weight gain.

Persistent, elevated insulin levels brought on by all-day snacking are linked to higher cardiovascular risk in children and young adults, while lower insulin levels brought on by fasting help your body burn fat. Periods of fasting also lower blood pressure, encourage the cellular repair that protects against infection, degeneration, and cancerous growth, and elevate growth hormone levels, helping to increase muscle mass.

How to lose weight without going hungry

The circadian diet is worth a shot if you get irate when you’re hungry (“hangry”), have digestive problems like heartburn or frequent bloating, experience intense cravings, can’t lose weight despite a healthy diet and exercise routine, feel like your metabolism has slowed with age, and/or suffer from poor sleep quality. If you decide to try it, go slow. Most people eat over a 12-15 hour window with 12-9 hours of fasting. The circadian diet recommends you shorten your eating period to 8-10 hours and eat real meals with breaks in between to give your digestive organs a chance to recover.

 That’s a big change, so start with a 12-hour eating window then shave off an hour every day until you’re down to eight — or nine or ten if eight feels too restrictive. After 30 days, assess how you feel. Good? Then feel free to continue. Bad? Adjust your eating schedule until you feel better.

 The great thing about circadian eating is that you can eat a healthy and satisfying quantity of food every day. It’s a lifestyle change, not a yo-yo diet.     

Circadian diet shortcut: Eat a bigger breakfast

 So, how do you schedule your meals on a circadian diet? It’s not easy, especially for those of us working from 9-to-5 (who wants to eat dinner at work?).

Studies show that our bodies are better at regulating blood sugar, digesting, and burning calories in the morning, so try making breakfast your biggest meal and consider bringing it to work (along with lunch). That way, you can start your eating window later and have plenty of time to make dinner at home.

Healthy fats like full-fat yogurt and avocado and high-fiber grains like brown rice have great nutrient profiles and also help you feel full longer. Add an egg or some tofu and a piece of fruit, and you’ll feel full until lunch.

If eating breakfast at your desk feels clumsy, try this calorie-rich green smoothie recipe.

Circadian Diet Smoothie

  • 1 handful of baby spinach

  • 2 bananas

  • 2 cups almond milk

  • 2 dates

  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter or almond butter

  • ¼ cup full fat plain yogurt

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 pinch of salt

  •  Adjust the ratios to taste, blend, and take it to-go.

At lunch, decrease your portions and calorie load, and for best results keep dinner light when you get home. Throughout the day, try to stick to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil, or fatty fish.

Herbs for healthy metabolism

 Some herbs may actually assist your body’s natural metabolism. One 2018 study found that the combination of catechins   and caffeine in matcha green tea can help accelerate fat burning during exercise. Green tea may also help regulate blood sugar, keeping you from hunger spikes and mood plummets.

Look for professionally blended formulas that combine green tea with additional herbs like dandelion and licorice root. Animal studies show that dandelion may lower both fat and sugar levels in the bloodstream, and a review of 26 clinical trials found that licorice consumption also reduces BMI.  

Circadian rhythm diet: The good and the bad

 The circadian diet is about satisfying your hunger in a deliberate and consistent way. Beyond the physical benefits sticking to meal and rest times every day honors the healing qualities of food instead of making it the enemy

That said, the circadian diet isn’t necessarily the best fit for everyone. Skip it if you’re under 21, over 70, a brittle diabetic, or pregnant, or if you have a low Body Mass Index (BMI), a history of eating disorders, or heart or kidney problems. We also recommend the “ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach” if you’re happy with your daily energy levels, hunger patterns, digestion, and sleep. The science behind the circadian diet is cool, but every body is different —if you already feel well, you probably are.

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Sex Rx: The natural remedies that help women feel more and want more

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Women should enjoy sex. And while we wish this went without saying, it doesn’t. 75% of women will experience painful intercourse at some point in their lifetime, and 7% to 22% of women experience pain during every encounter. These statistics don’t account for those of us who feel numb, uncomfortable, or just unfulfilled during sex.

Sometimes, our pain or lack of pleasure from sex warps into a belief that there’s something wrong with us—there isn’t. What’s wrong is how badly we’ve been educated about our own sexual health and the agency that we have over it. But adjustments to your body care, nutrition, and mindsets, as well as educating your partner, can build your sexual confidence and create the best conditions for you to experience pleasure. 

Arousal and desire aren’t the same thing

The whole “arousal, plateau, orgasm, resolution” model of sex you probably learned in health class is just that—a model that doesn’t account for the huge array of sexual variables and patterns that both women and men can experience. When this model fails to describe our own sexual life, we tend to instead think that we’ve failed to behave in a healthy way—and that’s when we (wrongly) begin to label our sexual patterns as “dysfunctional”. Differentiating between arousal and desire is an important first step in reclaiming your sexual health.

 Arousal is a set of body processes that occur in response to a sexual prompt, whether or not you actually find that prompt appealing. This usually involves lubrication and increased blood flow to the genitals (which you may or may not notice).

Contrary to popular belief, for many women desire actually doesn’t set in until after arousal, if she does, in fact, find a sexual situation appealing. It indicates wanting sex (getting turned on) rather than only being physically prepared for it. In other words, your body (lubrication, blood flow) and your mind (anticipation, excitement) need to be in agreement for you to enjoy sex. When they aren’t, sex can be painful or tedious.

Researchers call this mismatch of body and mind states, non-concordance, and it’s normal and common, especially in women. In fact, a woman’s genital response rarely reflects whether or not she’s turned on—her body and mind may only be aligned as little as 10% of the time. That means that the other 90% of the time you may be lubricated without being turned on, turned on without being lubricated, or interested in initiating sex for emotional reasons but unable to feel stimulated.

Don’t power through painful sex

Painful intercourse (a.k.a. dyspareunia [dis-puh-ROO-nee-ah] ) can happen if your body isn’t sufficiently aroused or lubricated, or if you feel low on desire. One of the problems with powering through painful sex for your partner’s sake is that it trains your mind and body to anticipate pain with penetration. This can cause the muscles in your pelvic floor to tense involuntarily, leading to more pain and more tension.

This feedback loop is a form of pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) that can lead to vaginismus, the painful tightening or spasm of the vaginal wall muscles. When pelvic floor dysfunction irritates nerves, women may also develop vulvodynia, a chronic sharp or stinging pain in the vulva without any apparent underlying disease. Vulvodynia can also begin in response to infection, injury, or vaginal atrophy—tissue thinning and inflammation due to low estrogen from menopause or hormonal birth control.

Pelvic floor physical therapy is an excellent option if you frequently experience painful sex, despite feeling turned on, or if you have chronic vulvar or vaginal pain. Pelvic floor physical therapists can help you retrain your muscles and calm your pain responses, as well as teach you exercises to maintain pelvic floor health. Find a pelvic floor physical therapist near you with this directory.

If you want to want more sex

Many people have what researchers call a responsive desire pattern, meaning they don’t often get turned on out of the blue. If you’re not in the mood as often as you’d like and want to initiate more or feel more receptive to a partner, you can learn how to trigger responsive desire.

 Since desire often comes after arousal in women, you can start by looking at erotic images, or reading erotic books to encourage your body to get aroused. These activities may lead to a desire to have sex on their own, but if they don’t consider adding in a partner to engage in low-pressure, non-sexual touching of your choosing.

 Take your time to figure out what sequence of images, thoughts, or touch arouses you and turns on your mind. Once you have that information, use it. There’s nothing wrong with relying on a prompt or two to get you started.

Having trouble getting aroused?

Any rigorous exercise can be incredibly effective in boosting your arousal, including for women on prescription antidepressants, or who have had hysterectomies. One study found that yoga can improve arousal, lubrication, desire, and orgasm in women, with women over 45 showing the most marked improvements.

Herbs like Tribulus terrestris and ginseng professionally blended with supporting herbs can also help. One small 2014 study found that an extract of Tribulus terrestris improved women’s arousal, lubrication, and satisfaction, and ginseng is a staple of Chinese Medicine that may enhance women’s libido.

If you struggle with vaginal dryness, look for herbal blends that capitalize on phytoestrogens like licorice root. And while there isn’t enough evidence or product testing to recommend topical royal jelly, research shows that it may also have estrogen-like effects and could be a promising alternative to synthetic hormones. One study found that when diluted in a lubricant base, royal jelly was more effective than topical estrogen cream or vaginal moisturizer in treating sexual problems in menopausal women.

Aroused but not turned on?

If you can get aroused but not turned on (i.e. your body is ready but you feel no desire), it’s worth examining the overall context of your life. Are you sleeping enough? Stressed at work? Feeling distant from your partner, or your body? All of these life factors can disrupt your ability to feel desire. Try making a list of what might be inhibiting you, then pick two or three that you can influence, like improving your sleep hygiene or spending quality time with a partner.

Mindfulness practices can also help boost your desire. One 2016  study found that mindfulness-based sex therapy improved alignment between genital response and feelings of desire, and another 2018 study concluded that women who meditated reported better sexual function and desire than non-meditators. If you’re new to meditation, try a free guided podcast for just five minutes a day.

Let go of “should”

From a young age, women are bombarded with media that shape our idea of what a healthy sexual relationship with our partners and ourselves should look like. We’re supposed to be spontaneous and enthusiastic and accommodating; we’re supposed to be pleasing at the expense of feeling pleasure.

 It takes effort and time to break free of these thought patterns. Try writing out what your ideal sex life will look and feel like along with a list of turn-ons, which can help you become aware of your needs and communicate them to your partner. It can also help you develop a definition of sexual wellness that reflects who and how you are right now, rather than how you think you should be.

If you aren’t seeing improvement with your new self-care practices and remedies, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider. Your pleasure matters, and the right gynecologists and physical and sex therapists can help you navigate the disconnections between your mind and body.

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Stuck in a sex rut? These are the best foods, herbs, and exercises for men

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Maybe you’ve tried quieting your mind, connecting with your partner, and cutting down on your sexual inhibitors, but you’re still struggling to activate your desire, arousal, or endurance. If these struggles appeared gradually over time and are consistent even in the best sexual contexts (low stress, high intimacy, good mood), body-based protocols targeting your hormone levels, circulation, and cellular health can help.

Limits of the erection Rx

While medications for ED can enhance your erections (part of male arousal), they won’t act on your desire i.e. you may wind up with an erection and no interest in using it. Like all medications, ED prescriptions can have side effects from headaches and nausea to hearing loss, and some men can’t take them due to heart conditions or high blood pressure—some of the very health conditions that can cause ED in the first place.

Hormones or circulation: what’s the difference?

Sex hormones like testosterone play a big part in sexual desire , so if you don’t feel motivated to have sex you may need to address your hormone levels. This lack of motivation can contribute indirectly to erectile dysfunction (ED), but it’s also possible to experience arousal (i.e. erections) without feeling desire. In short: disinterest in sex usually has psychological or hormonal origins.

If you’re interested in sex but can’t get aroused, that’s most likely a blood flow or retention issue, especially if you aren’t having involuntary erections at night. Underlying health conditions like high blood pressure can reduce blood supply to the penis, as can smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, and certain classes of medication. As men age, their erectile tissue may also have a tougher time retaining the blood necessary for an erection. That’s because oxidative stress caused by free radicals damages cells, making the erectile tissue porous. Oxidative stress may also lead to clogged arteries (a.k.a atherosclerosis), another condition that limits blood flow to the penis. 

Whatever combination of hormonal or circulatory problems you might be facing, nutrition, sleep, exercise, diet, and herbal remedies can help boost both your desire and performance.

Eat antioxidants and zinc for sexual health

Since oxidative stress is a leading cause of age-related ED, antioxidants from food are vital for both prevention and treatment. While there are plenty of antioxidant-packed superfood options like goji berries and chaga mushroom, incorporating antioxidants into your diet can be both simple and affordable. A good rule is to get as much colorful produce in your grocery cart as possible since each color usually corresponds to a different type of antioxidant. For example, black plums, blackberries, blueberries, and red grapes all contain the antioxidant anthocyanin. Other high-antioxidant foods include beets, beans, cabbage, kale, spinach, pecans, and dark chocolate.

Zinc is a vital trace element that we can only obtain from food and supplements. In addition to its antioxidant properties, zinc plays a big part in sperm production and quality, testosterone production, and protecting the prostate against infection. In short, healthy male reproductive systems depend on adequate zinc intake.

That said, it’s possible to overdose on zinc when you use supplements, so as always we recommend turning to whole foods first. While most foods contain some amount of zinc, a few healthy categories and items are more zinc-rich than others. These include seeds, nuts, shellfish, crab, lobster, tofu, mushrooms, legumes, whole grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa, eggs, lean poultry, non-rbST dairy, and even that antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.

A few simple diet adjustments can quickly fulfill your recommended daily intake—about 11mg for men (for more details check out this zinc intake guide). An egg contains 1mg while yogurt is about 1.7mg per serving. Add two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds for another 2mg of zinc and your light breakfast has already put you at 43% of your daily value. Aim to incorporate 1-2 servings of least one zinc-rich food at lunch and dinner and you’ll hit 11mg by bedtime.

Cut down on sugar and red meat

While red meat is high in zinc, it’s also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and erectile dysfunction. Consuming sugar, meanwhile, is associated with lowered testosterone levels in men. Excess sugar (and refined carbohydrate) consumption also leads to increased fat deposits in your body, which in turn decrease your testosterone levels.

Try sex-enhancing herbs

Herbs can boost male desire and performance by supporting circulation, hormone balance, and healthy tissue. If sexual arousal and desire are your main problems, horny goat weed (really) and ginseng are staples of Chinese Medicine and can support male sexual health when appropriately blended with other, balancing herbs. One study found that a compound in horny goat weed inhibits an enzyme that restricts blood flow to the penis, and several studies have shown that different varieties of ginseng may assist with erections, hormone regulation, and sperm production

If you also struggle with energy, endurance, and recovery (in the gym as well as the bedroom), instead look for professional herbal blends that include wild oats (really), gingko biloba, and maca. Several compounds in wild green oats may support cardiovascular health , and gingko biloba can increase blood flow to the brain and genitals, and may help increase dopamine in the brain, contributing to alertness. Studies show that maca, meanwhile, can lessen fatigue and promote physical endurance. A 2002 double blind placebo-controlled study also found that maca increased sexual desire in men aged 21 to 56

Exercise for better sex

Aerobic exercise like dancing, running, brisk walking, and swimming stimulate circulation and improve overall cardiovascular health. A 2018 systematic review of ED research studies found that weekly exercise of 160 minutes for six months decreased erectile problems in men with ED, while a 2010 study found that a consistent yoga practice improved men’s desire, erections, and orgasm. The takeaway? Pick a form of movement you enjoy and stick to it for lasting sexual health benefits.  

Get more sleep

If you’ve been struggling to improve your sleep habits here’s another motivator: poor or insufficient sleep is associated with lowered testosterone levels, leading to decreased desire, particularly in older men.

Good sleep hygiene includes going to bed and waking at the same time every day (even weekends), turning off screens and eating dinner at least two hours before bedtime, and scheduling at least eight hours in bed. Track how many hours of sleep you need to feel rested, which can range from seven to nine hours among adults, then adjust your scheduled time in bed accordingly. 

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, herbal blends containing valerian, passion flower, and poppy can help.  Studies have shown that all three of these herbs cab help alleviate sleeplessness. Try a DIY lavender aromatherapy spray on your pillow at bedtime. Combine equal parts vodka or witch hazel with distilled water in a spray bottle and add lavender oil at a 1%-2% dilution (between 6 and 12 drops for each ounce of liquid) spritz on your pillow, and take slow, gentle breaths—lavender essential oil improves both sleep quality and duration.  

Give it time

All of these approaches are geared towards healing and strengthening your body—in some cases at the cellular level. Improvements may show themselves gradually over weeks and months, but as long as you keep up your new healthy habits, they’ll last for years.

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Mind your mind: Applying the new science of male sexuality

It’s a myth that all healthy men experience strong and spontaneous desire, and this myth can make men with non-linear, intimacy-focused sexual patterns feel broken. If your struggles with sex feel abrupt or inconsistent, you may just need help getting your body and mind to cooperate.

What is sexual dysfunction?

 Sexual dysfunction is a broad (and probably overused) term that can cover anything from painful sex or trouble with arousal to a person’s feeling that they just aren’t enjoying sex the way they’d like to. To understand the many factors that can hinder a man’s sexual experience, it’s worth defining some sexual health terms. Problems with any of these can have both physical and emotional origins.

  • Arousal is a set of body processes that occur in response to a sexual situation/thought/image, whether or not a man actually finds that situation appealing.


  • Desire can set in before or after arousal, if a man does in fact find a sexual situation appealing. It indicates wanting sex rather than only being prepared for it.


  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the consistent inability to have or maintain an erection (a sign of arousal) long enough to have intercourse, despite feeling desire.


  • Premature ejaculation (PE) is when ejaculation occurs before sex, or within one minute of engaging in sexual activity.

How to improve men’s sexual health

 A string of research since 2001 proposes that much of what we learned about sex in health class is wrong—for men as well as women. Some researchers now say there’s no biological evidence for sex being a physical “drive”, or even a one-size-fits-all model for how arousal, desire, and fulfillment work.

Translation? We don’t need sex to live, so our bodies don’t have to crave it spontaneously the way they do food or water. Instead, the desire for sex can arise from combinations of thoughts (including memories and fantasies), feelings, or sensory input. The prompt can be obvious (partner in a towel!) or subtle (partner laughing at bad jokes!), but it’s always in play. True biological drives will arise with or without a prompt i.e. you don’t need to fantasize about hamburgers in order to feel hungry.

According to the “responsive desire” sex framework, men and women may not be so different when it comes to getting in the mood. It all comes down to lag time. Many (but not all) men feel the effects of a sexual prompt right away, and many (but not all) women need more time or more prompts to feel interest.

On top of all that, many researches think that all human sexual functioning can be explained through an excitation/inhibition system. That is, we all have specific circumstances, moods, and forms of touch that turn us on, but we also have lots of things that turn us off. This gas/brakes model means that you could be excited (partner in a towel!) and inhibited (weird smell in the kitchen!) at the same time, making for confusing combinations of feeling desire without arousal, arousal without desire, or nothing at all.

If a man wants intimacy with a partner, he may be disappointed with his body’s refusal to play along. But our bodies often take cues from our minds: anxiety, depression, fatigue, situational stressors, and relationship tension or disconnection can all inhibit both desire and arousal in men. This can result in ED, PE, or just lackluster sexual encounters.

Tips for managing sexual inhibitors

While most of us know that creating intimate contexts (walks on the beach, wine by the fire) can boost our sexual functioning, we often don’t address what inhibits us. Something as simple as a tough day at work or tax season can kill the mood for hours-to-weeks. Since we don’t recommend you quit your job or evade your taxes in the name of sexual wellness, here are some tips to manage those sex-inhibitors.

Stay in the moment

For one week, keep track of triggers that turn you off, then identify which ones you can control or reduce. The trick here is to consistently remove as many sexual blocks as you can. Even better if you can replace those blocks with sexual instigators. 

Watching the news or scrolling through your phone before bed can be both distracting and subtly stressful. If you can, try unplugging completely after work. Go for a walk or run with your partner a few days a week instead of braving traffic on the way to the gym. Replace time on your phone with books, card games, or short, simple meditations or breath work. If making dinner every night stresses you out, give yourself permission to order out or pay for a meal delivery kit a few nights a week. If you feel too exhausted at night, try instituting a stricter sleep routine, and/or leaving time for intimacy in the morning when you’re rested.

 Since your brakes/gas system is unique to you, your plan for managing it will be, too.

Herbs to relax

 Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that with regular use reduces cortisol levels as well as feelings of depression and anxiety, which can in turn make you more receptive to sexual contexts. Blends that pair Ashwaghanda with soothing herbs like valerian and hops (yep, the same hops that’s in beer) bring out its calming properties.

If you want to elevate your mood, try ashwagandha blends that incorporate St. John’s wort. One 2016 review of 35 research studies of St. John’s wort concluded that its effects were comparable to antidepressant medication. If you’re currently taking medications, be sure to talk to your health care provider before adding herbs to your routine since they can affect the way you metabolize certain common pharmaceuticals.  

Don’t try too hard

Sex is complicated. It can create life, for one. It can also communicate intimacy or reveal relationship rifts, lead to pleasure or disappointment, resolve arguments or start them, and lift or deepen anxiety. In other words, sex is not a problem to be solved—it’s an ongoing negotiation between your feelings, your body, your partner(s), and the circumstances of your life. For the best results, be kind to yourself and patient with your body as you explore these new self-care options.


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How non-GMOs help honey bees

At Crystal Star, we love honey bees—they help propagate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and many of the flowering herbs we use in our products. Like honeybees, we know that small contributions can lead to big benefits. That’s why we support both the Honey Bee Health Coalition and non-GMO formulas as part of our mission to support healthy people in a healthy world.

Even better news? Herbs used in natural supplements in general aren’t genetically modified, even if they don’t have a certification sticker.  That’s because most genetic engineering targets cash crops like corn, wheat, and soy, in an effort to keep costs down while increasing yield. Herbs (happily) aren’t profitable enough to draw the attention of gene-altering agribusinesses—though herbs modified for pharmaceutical use are another story. 

GMOs have their public-health and papaya-saving  upsides, but they come with costs, too. One 1999 study found that pollen from genetically modified corn kills monarch butterfly larvae in lab tests, and a 2012 study concluded that “Roundup Ready” crops led to increased pesticide use and declines in milkweed—the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.

While there’s no direct evidence that genetically modified plants hurt honey bees, GMO-enabled monocultures and the herbicides and pesticides growers spray on many GMO crops do.When you support non-GMO plants, growers and businesses, you also support a return to diversified and sustainable agriculture.

What your yeast infections are telling you

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For most women, yeast infections are an occasional nuisance. Forget to change out of your wet bikini and twelve hours later you’re cradling a box of Monistat 3 in the CVS checkout line. But for some of us those infections keep coming back, no matter how many tubs of Greek yogurt we eat. Why, and how do we break the cycle?

Imbalance ≠ invasion

Our microbiomes are powerful, intricate ecosystems that regulate normal body processes and protect us from disease.  In other words, the mix of bacteria, archaea , viruses, fungi and in and on our bodies can affect our immune response, our skin health, and even our weight.

 Repeated courses of antibiotics and diets low in fiber and high in processed foods (looking at you, toaster pastry) can lead to systemic imbalances in our microbiomes. So can stress and pH-altering soaps and detergents.

Most yeast infections occur when otherwise healthy Candida albicans yeast overpopulates the vaginal canal, or when it penetrates into deeper cell layers. The latter happens when the mucous lining is compromised—think vaginal dryness or irritation from douching, hormonal changes, medications, spermicides, or other types of infection.

Yeast isn't so bad once you get to know it

Yeast isn't so bad once you get to know it

Disinfect your laundry

Most household water heaters are set to about 120°F and dryers usually max out at 135°. But Candida albicans can survive in temperatures up to 15, so your underwear may continue to harbor yeast even after washing, making you susceptible to reinfection. To kill yeast while protecting laundry colors, add 5-10 drops of lavender or tea tree essential oil with your detergent and a cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. If you’re washing whites, hydrogen peroxide bleach is an excellent antifungal that’s gentler than chlorine bleach. If you can, hang-dry your laundry outside—UV light kills most yeast and bacteria.  

Boost your probiotics

Probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus strains rhamnosus and reuteri can have powerful Candida-regulating properties, but oral supplements and fermented foods alone probably aren’t enough to maintain vaginal health. Enter prebiotics.   

Prebiotics are foods that help fuel colonies of beneficial bacteria in the colon, and are usually high in fiber. Leafy greens are good bets, as are bananas, asparagus, avocados, brown rice, legumes, and alliums like garlic and onion. Add these foods to your daily diet and they’ll help your probiotics balance your microbiome over time. 

Try herbs

Check overgrowth

If you have an active infection, try supplementing with fungus-inhibiting herbs like olive leaf and pau d’arco. Look for blends that include immunity-supporting herbs like siberian eleuthero.

Support your hormones

Hormonal birth control may make you more vulnerable to yeast infections, so consider asking your doctor for alternatives—particularly if you suspect your birth control is causing vaginal dryness, painful sex, or thinning tissue.  

If you’ve reached menopause, herbs like sarsaparilla, and black cohosh can encourage healthy hormone balance, which fortifies vaginal tissue. These herbs work best in synergistic blends. Phytoestrogens  like licorice root may also help improve vaginal atrophy caused by hormonal fluctuations. Look for blends that also contain hormone-helping shatavari and maca.

Get cultured

If you’re still dealing with chronic or recurrent yeast infections after following these steps, consider asking your health care provider for a vaginal culture to figure out which species of bacteria and yeast are causing your symptoms. While Candida albicans is likely to blame, other less common strains of Candida may be at work and could require a different treatment course. It’s also a good idea to ask about underlying health conditions like diabetes, which can lead to high blood sugar levels that feed yeast.

Fungi: not as bad as you think

Fungus gets a bad rap. There’s yeast infections and athlete’s foot and ringworm, for starters, plus a few species of delicious and deadly wild mushrooms. Some researchers classify entire cultures as either mycophilic (mushroom-loving) or mycophobic (mushroom-fearing), with English-speaking societies historically landing in the anti-fungus camp.

But fungus helps us more often than it harms. It’s instrumental in the creation of foods like bread, cheese, wine, kombucha, kefir, and soy sauce. For people of a certain generation or spiritual bent, fungus can even be the wellspring of life-enhancing hallucinogenic experiences (writer and Baby Boomer Michael Pollan writes about his late-life mushroom trip in How To Change Your Mind).

Mounting scientific evidence shows that trees rely on fungus networks to share nutrients and communicate through hormonal signals and electrical impulses, making fungus a hybrid circulatory-system-internet of the natural world. If you’re struggling with yeast infections, remember that fungus is a champion regulator and communicator—it may only be telling you that your body needs some help rebalancing itself.

what your yeast infections are telling you and how to treat them, by Crystal Star

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Don’t wait out uterine fibroids

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Up to 70% of all women will develop uterine fibroids by age 50. About 25% of us will go on to develop symptoms ranging from heavy menstrual bleeding to staggering pelvic pain. And while fibroids rarely threaten our lives or fertility, they can require surgery in severe cases. But for most of us, our fibroids are mild-to-moderate, waxing and waning throughout our reproductive years until (we hope) the hormonal shifts at menopause bring balance and relief.

While no treatment is guaranteed to prevent fibroids, at-home care to manage your hormones means you don’t have to wait until menopause to feel at home in your body.

What causes fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign tissue growths that appear on uterine walls. While your genes contribute to your risk of developing fibroids, your hormones also play a significant role. Exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals like pesticides and BPA in plastics can stimulate fibroid growth, as can obesity, a diet rich in red meat, and even some hormonal birth control.

Researchers continue to study the effects of plant-based estrogens like isoflavones in soy, which may increase fibroid risk in infants fed soy formula. That said, moderate intake of organic whole-soy products like tofu and miso (as opposed to highly-processed products like soy-based formula, milk, and supplements that contain high concentrations of isoflavones) is likely safe and may even reduce breast cancer risk in non-pregnant or nursing adult women.

If all this sounds like a fibroid-inducing minefield, don’t worry. Our hormones are incredibly responsive to positive changes in our diet, environment, and lifestyle.

Nutritional support

Foods to add

High-fiber diets decrease your body’s circulating estrogen, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts also contain indole-3-carbinol, a compound that helps your body metabolize estrogen. Sea greens like dulse and nori are a good source of iodine, another potential estrogen regulator.

Try to get most of your protein from plant sources like beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, brown rice, sprouts, and avocado. Low-mercury seafoods and hormone-free poultry are also safe choices, as are hormone-free fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir, which contain anti-tumor-forming calcium, vitamin D, and butyric acid. This tool can calculate your recommended daily protein intake.

Foods to avoid

Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake—research shows that high coffee consumption may spur estrogen production, leading to fibroid growth. Try substituting your morning joe with a cup or two of fibroid-fighting green tea. Green tea contains less than half the caffeine of coffee, along with antioxidants and l-theanine, a calming amino acid that counteracts that “wired” feeling you get from caffeine.

Eliminate fibroid-aggravating red meats as well as sugary foods, which increase systemic inflammation and fat deposits, which in turn raise circulating estrogen levels.

Herbs and Supplements

Get ahead of your cycle

If you’re still menstruating, try starting a protocol once your last period ends. Look for herbal blends that target inflammation and pain while supporting healthy tissue. A good formulation will contain herbs like ginger, pau d’arco, goldenseal, and red raspberry. Bonus points for blends that contain maitake mushroom—preliminary studies show that it may slow tumor growth. Use as directed until your next period begins.

Use as suggested until your next period begins.

Once your period begins, switch over to a formula that supports balanced hormones as well as occasional discomfort and inflammation. Goldenseal and red raspberry are still good bets, but look for additional herbs like uva ursi, cramp bark, and Jamaican dogwood. Consider blends that include rehmannia, which Chinese Medicine regards as a potent tonic for blood circulation. Some studies have found that blends containing rehmannia may even improve pain and fertility outcomes in endometriosis patients. Use this blend as suggested for the duration of your period, then switch back to the first one. Repeat this protocol for three to four cycles.  

Not menstruating? Stick to the first blend in this protocol for three to four months.

Support your liver

Our livers produce enzymes that metabolize most of our body’s estrogen, so give it some love for all that hard work. Try a cup of dandelion root tea after dinner to stimulate bile production (another liver function), which yields the added benefit of breaking down and assimilating fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

Milk thistle may also support liver function and can aid with indigestion. While some online sources caution that milk thistle has estrogen-like effects, this inference is based on studies of silymarin, a concentrated, flavonoid , extract of milk thistle. As with soy, it’s the processing that’s the problem—whole-herb milk thistle is more likely to help with your fibroid management than to hinder it. If you’re still uneasy about milk thistle and prefer to avoid it, that’s okay. CoQ-10 is a potent antioxidant that also shows promise in treating inflammatory liver conditions. Try supplementing with 100mg daily.☼

Mind and Bodywork

Make friends with stress

Stress can affect your hormone levels, but believing that stress can harm you may be the bigger risk to your health. How to stop stressing about stress? Make friends with it through mindfulness practices. Daily free guided meditations that take as little as 10 minutes a day can reduce the impact of stress and help manage chronic pain. Stress is part of life and innate to any act of commitment or bravery, from starting a new job or family, to learning to dance or driving in rush hour traffic.

Health care providers trained in biofeedback can also help you learn how to calm your nervous system and some at-home gadgets let you perform biofeedback, (or a brain-wave based subset called neurofeedback) with your smartphone.

Exercise

Research shows that regular, vigorous exercise may help prevent fibroid onset. If rowing machines and jumping jacks aren’t your thing, sign up for a dance or vinyasa yoga class. For a low-impact workout, try cycling, swimming or water aerobics classes.  

Keep your providers in the loop

Update your health care providers on any herbs or other supplements you may be taking, as well as any changes in your diet and exercise. Fibroids are common, but pain is not inevitable. Natural food and lifestyle choices can help manage fibroids, and even help you recover from surgical or pharmaceutical interventions.

☼ CoQ10 may reduce the effectiveness of blood thinning drugs like Warfarin. Consult with your doctor on the remedies you’re taking.


Back pain relief: what you haven’t tried

Back pain relief and herbal remedies from Crystal Star

Back pain is tricky to manage. It can be sharp or dull, chronic or unpredictable, and it’s often a symptom of multiple issues involving both your body and your mind. Worse? Treatments offering fast relief can be outright scary.

In the United States, over a decade of pharmaceutical quick-fixes has created a devastating epidemic of opioid addiction, derailing and ending thousands of lives. Even your friendly over-the-counter pain relievers come with risks. Studies dating as far back as 1986 show that NSAIDS like naproxen and ibuprofen are associated with gastrointestinal inflammation and permeability, a.k.a. leaky gut syndrome.

The good news? The more insight researchers gain into the mind-body connection and plant-based healing, the more options we have to safely manage our back pain, and our health, at home.

What causes back pain?

Unfortunately, lots of things. Emotional stress, shoes, mattresses, chairs, computers, dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, injury, and chronic health conditions like arthritis or scoliosis. In short, (modern) living.

But while our back pain may be a modern woe, many of the care principles below are time-tested and in some cases, ancient. These simple, low-cost, and safe adjustments to your self-care routine can go a long way towards reducing your pain.

Consult with your doctor before attempting at-home care if you have a herniated disc or scoliosis, new, sharp, or debilitating pain, or mobility issues. Otherwise, feel free to try our healing protocols below. You know your body best, so listen to it throughout this process and most of all be kind and patient with yourself as you establish new habits. Gradual improvement is often the most lasting.   

Nutritional support

Foods to add

Dull back pain that doesn’t respond to heat, rest, or manual therapies may be due to dehydration, and insufficient protein or essential minerals like calcium can also play a role. Aim to drink between 8 and 12 glasses of water daily (you should rarely feel thirsty) and eat plenty of plant proteins like beans, brown rice, or tofu. Shellfish, fish, and protein-rich sea-greens like kelp, dulse, or nori are also rich in vital minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.

Stock up on anti-inflammatory foods like fresh and steamed vegetables and juices, sprouted whole grains, miso soups, brown rice, umeboshi plums, lemons and limes.

Foods to avoid

Cut back on inflammatory foods like sugar, red meats, caffeine, and dairy (except for yogurt and kefir). Overall, it’s a good idea to reduce fat—the greater the fat deposits in your body, the greater the risk of spinal disc degeneration.

Herbs, Superfoods, and Supplements

The herbs and superfoods below contain a wealth of non-addictive bioactives that can help address back pain, tension, and inflammation. Depending on the type of pain you’re experiencing, supplements may also give you some relief. Plan to incorporate no more than two or three of these recommendations at a time.

Ease tense muscles

Back pain is often the result of strained or overworked muscles, so start with a blend containing pain-targeting herbs like cramp bark, Jamaican dogwood, black haw, and rosemary. A good formulation will include assisting herbs like valerian, red raspberry, and St. John’s wort.

Soothe inflammation

If your pain persists, try addressing inflammation. For best effect over the long-term, combine an herbal blend with protease like pineapple-derived bromelain to help your body assimilate bioactives (1). An effective blend will use an anti-inflammatory like turmeric and include supporting herbs like Gotu kola, Jamaican dogwood, burdock, and white willow (which contains a compound similar to aspirin). Aloe-based drinks are also an excellent way to harness the power of this anti-inflammatory superfood.

If you suspect nerve inflammation, potassium is key. Take 500mg daily, or try a more readily-absorbed potassium-rich green drink. 200mg daily of Coenzyme Q-10 can also assist with nerve pain, as can herbal blends containing devil’s claw. (2)

CBD oil for back pain?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound that comes from either marijuana or hemp —two different plant varieties of the Cannabis sativa species. Legal confusion aside, CBD acts on the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors, which help regulate sleep, appetite, pain, and other functions. In other words, CBD is a promising option for back pain management, but we recommend you read up on dosing best practices before beginning a protocol. Every body will react to CBD differently and it can interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor to make sure you’re in the clear.

Bodywork

Heat

Don’t knock heat until you’ve tried it. Stress-related tension tends to accumulate in the lower back, neck and shoulders, and daily heat wraps or pads can act as natural muscle relaxers. Microwavable pads containing chamomile or lavender add clinically-proven calming effects to your routine.

Cold

Heat not bringing relief? Switch to inflammation-calming ice packs if your pain lasts over 48 hours

Yoga (with caveats) 

Yoga can be wonderful for back hygiene and stress management, but as with most physical activity it’s important to listen to your body during your practice. If you’re a first-time practitioner, look for foundational studio classes or online videos that show you how to protect your spine and joints, especially during forward-folds and backbends. More than passively recreating shapes, the real benefits of yoga arrive when you purposely engage certain muscle groups in certain postures, and the best teachers will offer modifications that assist all body types and abilities.

When to call a professional

Knowledge is power, but too much knowledge is overwhelming. If you aren’t sure where to begin, consult with an integrative physician or naturopath, or give our staff herbalist a call. Massage therapists, acupuncturists, osteopaths, and chiropractors can offer relief, and if the idea of spinal adjustments makes you uncomfortable, ask your chiropractor for alternatives. Whatever your first step, know that your pain matters and there are many paths to healing it.   

(1) High doses of bromelain or other protease may affect bleeding and should be used with caution.

(2) CoQ10 may reduce the effectiveness of blood thinning drugs like Warfarin. Consult with your doctor on the remedies you’re taking.

Is the Paleo Diet All It Promises?

What is the Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet is loosely based on the diet consumed by humans 10,000 years ago before the advent of modern agriculture and grain centered eating. Modern paleo eating consists of:  fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, unlimited vegetables and fruit, most nuts, and some oils (avocado, flaxseed, coconut). For grain sensitive people, it’s both gluten-free, and grain-free. Paleo excludes: grains, dairy, beans and other legumes (including peanuts), fruit juices, potatoes, refined sugar, salt, and refined oils.

Positive Praise for Paleo…

Paleo offers abundant fresh foods. For people who have relied too much on refined carbohydrates and processed foods, Paleo offers a chance to restart your diet with more fresh foods, fruit and vegetables, and healthier meats.

Paleo recommends grass fed meats and many organic foods. Paleo promotes organic animal foods that have been raised more humanely. Grass fed meats are notably higher in healthy essential fats, and lower in saturated fat than commercial meats. Grass fed meats also contain more vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Organic meats also avoid antibiotic and hormone loading notorious in factory farm animals. (Antibiotics and hormones in your food mean antibiotics and hormones in your body.)

Paleo gets the junk out. There is no more fast food or eating out of a box with Paleo. Paleo dieters shop the perimeter of the grocery store where the real food is. Most Paleo meals are prepared at home, a bonus for more control of portions and healthy ingredients. In many ways, Paleo is moving in the right direction for health, but there are drawbacks.

Paleo eating can produce weight loss for a time. Most people I’ve spoken with initially lose 10 pounds or so before they hit both an energy and weight loss plateau on Paleo. Unfortunately, most people find it difficult to stick to Paleo eating (like most diets), or they eventually overeat fat and meat to make up for a lack of complex carbohydrates.

Problems with Paleo

The “Paleo” diet isn’t really Paleolithic. Evidence suggests ancient humans were opportunistic omnivores, scavenging tubers, twigs, animal foods and just about anything they could hunt or find. Paleolithic man’s diet relied much more on nuts, fruits and leaves, than meat. Meat was only occasionally eaten after a successful hunt or was scavenged from a carcass time to time.

Modern Paleo relies too heavily on meat and contains too much saturated fat. A high meat diet doesn’t work well for weight loss over the long-term, and is linked to cardiovascular disease, and many cancers. Further, raising food animals is very resource demanding. Plant-based diets are clearly more Earth friendly, sparing more water and land, and producing less pollution. And while organic meats are healthier than commercial meats, they are too costly for most people for every day eating. A plant-based diet is still the best for health, and the most cost and resource effective.

A Paleolithic diet may not be as health protective as you think. Some evidence suggests that Paleolithic man was as prone to clogged arteries as modern man. Additionally, although refined carbohydrates offer few benefits, bacteria in modern man’s gut has evolved to be able to digest healthy whole grains and other high fiber foods easily.

High protein diets can be taxing to the kidneys and may not provide enough energizing nutrients for people who engage in sports or intensive exercise.

High protein diets like the Paleo diet are notorious for causing fatigue, especially for people who engage in sports or intensive exercise. A lack of complex carbohydrates can leave the body drained with few reserves for sustained energy throughout the day. For people who work out intensely, a Paleo diet also may leave nutritional gaps or even slow down weight loss.

A Plant Based Diet Is Better for Weight Loss and Health

While refined grains have been hybridized and genetically altered to the point where they can no longer be considered part of a healthy diet, whole grains contain a wealth of nutrients, high fiber and complex carbohydrates to include in a healthy, plant based diet. Today Lotus Food, Rice Select, Vita Spelt, Simply Balanced and Eden Foods all offer an excellent selection of non-GMO verified whole grains.

Can Vegetarians Go Low Carb?

While it’s not easy, even vegans and vegetarians can go low carb to accelerate weight loss temporarily. For people stuck on weight loss plateau, it’s a great way to jumpstart weight loss because your body shifts into burning fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

To minimize fatigue and low carb burn out, try reducing the amount of grains you’re using gradually rather than all of a sudden. One option is to cut out high carb foods after lunch. This especially helps reduce excess fat and sugar storage in the evening when you are less active.

 For a low carb, plant based diet, include high protein/ fiber foods like: quinoa, chia seed, flax seed, hemp protein, spirulina and other blue-green algaes, beans (all kinds), and eggs (if not vegan). You need to become creative for this type of diet to work, but today there is an abundance of good tips online and in vegetarian cook books.

For people who want try a modified Paleo diet, whole 30 is a good choice, and is only a month’s commitment.

The Demodex Connection to Rosacea Outbreaks

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Research suggests human demodex, a microscopic mite, is potential contributor to rosacea. Numerous studies have found it appears in higher numbers on the skin of people with rosacea, particularly on rosacea bumps and pimples (papulopustular rosacea).

For some time, it has not been clear whether the mites actually cause the rosacea or whether a person with rosacea's immune system reacts sensitively to them. However, a new study suggests altered immune response may be involved. A new study from the National University of Ireland-Maynooth found bacteria present on the mite (Bacillus oleronius) caused an immune response in rosacea patients.

Typically, treatment to reduce the mites/bacteria (Metronidazole) reduces skin inflammation and relieves rosacea. In the herb world, we use herbs like cat's claw, pau d'arco, and goldenseal infused in a topical aloe vera gel (Immune Support gel) to keep skin balanced, cool and calm.

Rosacea Relief


Rosacea is a skin disorder related to adult acne occurring mainly in middle-aged people of Celtic descent, and menopausal women. There is no known cure for acne rosacea. Doctors treat it in much the same way as other forms of acne, with oral and topical antibiotics. It has clear food and environmental triggers like: tomatoes, red spices, chocolate, meat marinades, hot drinks, citrus fruits, vinegar, both white and red wine, and red meats. Hot weather and stress aggravate rosacea. Some evidence suggest it is caused by a parasitic mite, human demodex.

Signs That You May Have Rosacea

•Flushing and redness of the cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead
•Acne-like bumps and pimples; small, hard bumps on both eyelids
•Dilated blood vessels on the face
•A red, bumpy nose; bloodshot eyes or gritty feeling in eyes


Effective natural therapies:  • Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of quality water and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid excess alcohol and smoking which contribute to dehydration.

Add plenty of • EFAs to your diet - Evening Primrose Oil 2000mg daily, or Total EFA, or add Omega-3 rich flax or perilla oil in your salad dressings.

 Add • seaweeds to your diet 2 tbsp. daily, or take •  Ocean Minerals with sea veggies. Applications • Fruit Enzyme Mist and apply Yoanna Cucumber Pearl Moisturizer to nourish and reduce redness.

Herbal First Aid for Kids

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The Following Teas Are Effective For Many Childhood Illnesses
• Elder flowers, boneset (bitter), yarrow with peppermint to induce a cleansing sweat
• Catnip/chamomile/rosemary tea to reduce a rash
• Mullein/lobelia, chamomile, or scullcap to relax
• Catnip, fennel, ginger, chamomile and peppermint for upset stomachs
• Elderberry syrup for sore throats and for interrupted sleep caused by coughing
• Dilute Crystal Star D-Congest spray to help clear chest congestion
• A catnip/lemon balm/cinnamon combo tea for warming against chills
• Echinacea drops in water every 4 hours to clear lymph glands and release infection.

Note: Use probiotics for children's health. Acidophilus makes a big difference in both recovery time and immune response. Acidophilus keeps friendly bacteria in the G.I. tract, especially if the child has taken a course of antibiotics. Use ¼ tsp. at a time in water or juice 3 to 4 times daily.

Dealing with Allergies to Makeup and Personal Care Products

    Multiple chemical sensitivities and allergic contaminant reactions are multiplying in every area of our lives today. An abundance of the chemicals that generate allergies and sensitivities are in cosmetics and beauty products. Heredity plays a role in our potential to cosmetic sensitivities, but the daily onslaught from environmental toxins, and free radical damage from chemicals and the aging process impact cosmetic beauty far more. If you’re someone with sensitive skin, or whose system can’t tolerate this chemical overload, all-natural, non-chemical body care and beauty products may be for you.  

Can you really make your own herbal cosmetics?
    Yes, you can .... and it’s easy!

    If you experience redness, itchiness or breakouts to drugstore or department store cosmetics, you may be reacting to their chemical irritants
When you make your own herbal cosmetics, you’re in control. You know everything they contain, you know each ingredient is pure and natural and if it’s something good for your body. You can personalize your cosmetic recipes for your own needs.

Making your own cosmetics is like trying a new recipe; these are essentially “kitchen cosmetics.” You can make herbal compounds for your eyes, nails, skin, hair, smile and feet. You’ll need a little patience and a little trial and error as you get the hang of it. Their simplicity is part of their charm. There are no harsh chemicals to irritate your body or the environment, and their subtle effects can bring out a more naturally beautiful you!   
 
It’s wonderful to be able to use freshly picked herbs in your cosmetics. You might even want to plant a small herb garden as your own personal beauty aid! However, the herbal compounds in this section can be made with both dried or fresh herbs. Dried herbs equal about one-half the volume of fresh herbs. One cup fresh equals 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry. Try to use distilled water or purified water rather than highly fluoridated tap water.
 

Here are some of the tools and supplies you’ll need.
    beeswax
    funnels
    enamel pots and bowls
    measuring cups, spoons
    clean glass jars
    clean glass or plastic containers for creams and liquids
    wire sieve
    small food scale
    apple cider vinegar
    witch hazel
    eggs, wire whip or egg beater
    tincture of benzoin (purchase from the drug store)
    cheesecloth
    wooden spoon
    herbs from a garden or the health food store

A few of my recipes:

Lips and smile beauty tip.....
        1:  Make your own natural, moisturizing lip gloss. Gently heat 6 tablespoons sweet almond or sesame oil with 1 tablespoon beeswax til just melted. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 teaspoons honey, and 12 drops of your favorite essential oil for flavor (cinnamon, peppermint or anise oil are good choices). I use this gloss without color as a good lip conditioner under my lipstick, or as a moisturizing finisher on top of lipstick. For a colored gloss, blend in about 1/2 tube of your favorite all natural, lipstick from the health food store, or add a few drops of beet juice while gloss is still hot. Whisk until cool to prevent separation. Add flavor oil after gloss has cooled.
        2:  Use the same method to make a healing lip balm for dry, chapped lips. Reduce the amount of almond or sesame oil to 5 tablespoons, and add healing agents of 11/2 teaspoons each St. John’s wort oil and calendula oil, and 2 teaspoons aloe vera gel. I like essential oil of vanilla for flavor.

Herbs that intensify and enhance hair color:
        1:  To add sheen to dark hair, rinse your hair with sage or rosemary tea after shampooing.
        2:  To add golden highlights to mousy, brown hair, rinse with chamomile/lemon tea.
        3:  Rinse hair after shampooing with nettles tea to darken and shine brown hair.
        4:  Is your dark hair starting to gray but you don’t want to use chemical hair color? If your hair hasn’t been chemically treated try a natural darkener: to 2 qts. boiling water add one handful each -  dry sage, dry nettles, dry rosemary, cut black walnut hulls, chopped dry dulse and cut black tea (any kind). Immediately remove from heat, cover and let steep for 4 hours. Add 1 tablespoon wheat germ oil. Refrigerate for three weeks. Strain and put liquid into bottles. Work a generous amount into hair after shampooing, leave on 10 minutes and rinse out.
        5:  Is your blonde hair fading, but chemical hair color isn’t for you? Try my marigold/lemon rinse for summer blonde highlights.I have used this rinse for many years; it looks best (blonde, not brassy) on non-chemically treated hair. Mix 1 cup of dry marigold flowers, 1 cup dry chamomile flowers, 1/2 cup lemon peel, 1/2 cup cut burdock root. Heat two quarts apple cider vinegar (for body and shine) and pour over herbs in a gallon jar. Store in a cool garage or basement, shaking every 24 hours for 7 days. Place a double piece of cheesecloth on top of the jar and strain off vinegar. Put liquid in bottles, and use 2 to 3 tablespoons in a cup of warm water as a hair rinse several times a week during the summer. Leave on 2 minutes, then rinse.

    What about henna? Is it a good choice for hair coloring?
        1:  Henna is a natural non-carcinogenic plant used for centuries for nail, body and hair coloring. It offers hair extra body while it colors - often dramatically. Henna works best on thin, light porous hair.
        2:  To add gold highlights to darker hair, add chamomile powder to henna hair color.

These are just a few examples of what you can do at home for non-toxic personal care and cosmetics. There are also many fine paraben-free, natural personal care products and cosmetics at your local health food store.
 

Interested in learning more? Here are a few excellent resources:

Jeanne Rose, Herbal Body Book, March 2000

Yoanna Kanalakis, Secrets to Looking Young Naturally, 2014

Zia Welsey Hosford, Face Value for Women over 35, 1990

Herbal Preparation & Delivery Methods

    Today, herbs are available at all quality levels. Today, we are able to simultaneously obtain and use herbs from different countries and different harvests, an advantage ages past did not enjoy. However, because of the natural variety of soils, seeds, and weather, every crop of botanicals is unique. Every batch of a truly natural herbal formula is slightly different, and offers its own unique benefits and experience.
    There must be a firm commitment to excellence from growers and suppliers everywhere, because herbal combinations are products for problems. For therapeutic success, herbs must be BIO-ACTIVE and BIO-AVAILABLE. If you decide to make your own herbal preparations, buy the finest quality herbs you can find. There is a world of disparity between fairly good herbs and the best. Superior stock must go into a medicinal formula so that the herbal product can do its job correctly. Superior plants cost far more than standard stock, but their worth in healing activity is a true value for the health care customer. Third party certifications like NSF, Non-GMO Project, Certified Organic and stringent in house quality control testing on herbs can help provide assurance that the herbs you are purchasing have been held to rigorous industry standards for quality and efficacy. Herbal suppliers will give you plenty of good information on their commitment to quality before you buy.
    
    Which type of herbal preparation should you choose?

 4.1.1

    Whichever herbal preparation form you choose, it is generally better to take greater amounts at the beginning of your program, to build a good internal healing base, and to stimulate your body’s vital balancing force more quickly. As the therapeutic agents establish and build, and you begin to notice good response, reduce your dose gradually, finally reducing to long range preventive amounts.
 
    Herbs can be applied to almost any necessity of life. It’s simply a matter of knowing their properties, how they work together and how to use them correctly. Herbs are foods, and your body knows how to use them. Give them time. Give yourself a good diet, some rest and relaxation for the best results.
    …Herbal teas are the most basic of all healing mediums — easily absorbed by the body as hot liquid. They are the least concentrated of all herbal forms, but many herbs are optimally effective when steeped in hot water. The hot brewing water releases herbal potency and provides a flushing action that is ideal for removing toxic, loosened wastes. Although teas have milder, more subtle effects than capsules or extracts, they are sometimes the only way for a weakened system to accept therapeutic support, and often work synergistically with stronger medicinal forms to boost their value.
    Note 1: Volatile essential oils are lost during cutting of herbs for tea bags. For best results, buy cut herbs or crumble leaves and flowers, and break roots and barks into pieces before steeping for best results.
    Note 2: Medicinal teas may have bitter tasting properties. Where taste is unpleasant, I add mint, lemon peel, spices, or stevia (sweet herb) to improve taste without harming therapeutic qualities.

    Tips on taking herbal teas:
        1: Use 1 packed small teaball to 3 cups of water for medicinal-strength tea. Use distilled water or pure spring water for increased herbal strength and effectiveness.
        2:  Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, add herbs and steep covered off heat; 10 to 15 minutes for a leaf-flower tea; 15 to 25 minutes for a root-bark tea. Keep lid down during steeping so volatile oils don’t escape.
        3:  Use a teapot of glass, ceramic or earthenware, not aluminum. Aluminum can negate the effect of the herbs as the metal dissolves into the hot liquid and gets into the body.
        4:  Drink medicinal teas in small sips throughout the day rather than all at once. One-half to 1 cup, taken 3 or 4 times over a day allows absorption of the tea, without passing before it has a chance to work.

    …An infusion is a tea made from fresh, dried or powdered herbs. Use directions above, or pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tablespoon of fresh herb, 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 4 opened capsules of powdered herbs. Cover and let steep 10 to 15 minutes. Never boil. A cold infusion can be made by simply allowing the herbs, especially powders, to stand in cool water for an hour or more.
    …A decoction is a tea made from roots and barks. Use directions above, or put 2 tablespoons of cut herb pieces into 1 cup cold water. Bring to a light boil, cover, and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain. For best results, repeat the same process with the same herbs. Strain again and mix both batches.
    …Sun tea is an infusion where herbs are put in a covered jar and allowed to stand in the sun.
    …Herbal broths, rich in minerals and enzymes, are made by grinding dry ingredients in a blender. Simply mix 2 TBS. of dry mix to 2 cups hot water. Let flavors bloom for 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. Bragg’s liquid aminos to each broth for a flavor-nutrient boost if desired. Sip over a half-hour period for best assimilation.
    …Herbal capsules are generally four times stronger than teas, more concentrated, yet bypass any herbal bitterness and are convenient to take. Capsules make both oil and water soluble herbs available through stomach acid and enzyme alteration. Freeze-dried powdered herbs, with all the moisture removed, are also available in capsules, and are four times more concentrated than regular ground herbs. As noted with herbal teas above, grinding herbs into powders creates facets on the whole herb structure causing potential loss of volatile oils. Effective potency for powdered herbs is six months to 2 years.
    …Herbal extracts are 4 to 8 times stronger than capsules. They are effective used as a spray where all the mouth receptors can be brought into play, or as drops held under the tongue, bypassing the digestive system’s acid-alkaline breakdown. Their strength and ready availability make extracts reliable emergency measures. Small doses may be used repeatedly over a period of time to help build a strong base for restoring body balance. Alcohol based herbal extractions can last for up to 5 years if stored correctly.
   ....Herbal gels allow absorption of herbs through the skin. We use aloe vera as a conduit in our gels to deliver the extracted herbs quickly to the target area. Use gels topically as needed for problems like cut, scrapes, scars and more.

Do You Need A Gallstone Cleanse?


In the United States, high bile cholesterol levels are the main cause of gallstones (bile cholesterol levels do not necessarily correlate with blood cholesterol levels). Gallstones form when bile liquid (made in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder to help the body digest fats) hardens into bits of stone-like material. A stone may grow for 6 to 8 years before symptoms occur. Since continued formation of gallstones is dependent on either an increased accumulation of cholesterol or reduced levels of bile acids or lecithin, it’s easy to see that anywhere along the way, diet improvement will deter, even arrest, stone development.

Important note: Although I have personally seen several gallstone sufferers use the 9 day program. I recommend it only under the supervision of a qualified health professional. The liver and gallbladder are interconnecting, interworking organs. Problems with either affect both. Before undertaking a Gallstone Flush to pass gallstones, have an ultrasound test to determine the size of the stones. If they are too large to pass through the urethral ducts, other methods must be used.


The Nine-Day Gallstone Flush Plan

Note: If olive oil is hard for you to take straight, sip it through a straw.
3 Day Olive Oil And Juice Flush
On rising: take 2 tbsp. olive oil and juice of 1 lemon in water. Sip through a straw if desired.
Breakfast: have a glass of organic apple juice.
Mid-morning: have 2 cups of chamomile or cascara tea.
Lunch: take another glass of lemon juice and olive oil in water; and a glass of fresh apple juice.
Mid-afternoon: have 2 cups of chamomile or cascara tea.
Dinner: have a glass of carrot/beet/cucumber juice; or a potassium juice or broth.
Before bed: take another cup of chamomile tea.
Follow With A 5 Day Alkalizing Diet
On rising: take 2 tbsp. cider vinegar in water with 1 tsp. honey; or a glass of grapefruit juice.
Breakfast: have a glass of carrot/beet/cucumber juice, or a potassium broth or juice.
Mid-morning: have 2 cups of chamomile tea, and a glass of organic apple juice.
Lunch: a vegetable drink with Pure Planet Chlorella, or Crystal Star Energy Green drink, a green salad with lemon-olive oil dressing and a cup of dandelion tea.   
Mid-afternoon: have 2 cups of chamomile tea, and another glass of apple juice.
Dinner: have a small green salad with lemon-oil dressing, add daikon radish shreds as a gentle diuretic flusher; and another glass of apple juice.
Before bed: 1 cup chamomile or dandelion tea.
End With A 1 Day Olive Oil Flush
At 7 p.m. on the evening of the 5th day of the alkalizing diet, mix 1 pint olive oil and 10 juiced lemons; take ¼ cup every 15 minutes until used. Lie on right side for best assimilation.
Prevent Gallstones From Forming
Increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake for more fiber. It keeps bad cholesterol deposits from forming and keeps food moving naturally through your system instead of developing deposits which turn into stones. Vegetable proteins from foods like soy, oat bran and sea veggies help prevent gallstone formation. Reduce your animal protein intake, especially dairy foods (casein in dairy foods increases gallstone formation). Avoid fried foods, fast foods and sugary foods altogether if you are at risk for gallstones.


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Do you have Gallbladder problems?

Do You Have Gallbladder Problems? You may not think it’s serious, that it’s just heartburn or indigestion, but if it’s chronic, it could be serious.
•Do you have intense pain in the upper right abdomen during an attack, sometimes accompanied by fever and nausea? (it may be gallstones)
•Do you have periods of nausea, vomiting, fever and intense abdominal pain that radiates to the upper back? (it may be cholecystitis, gallbladder inflammation)
•Do you have recurring abdominal pain, bloating and gas after you eat a heavy meal? along with headaches, sluggishness or nervousness? (it may be gallstones or Crohn’s disease)

Do You Have Gallstones?
In the United States, high bile cholesterol levels are the main cause of gallstones, with most stones (80%) composed of cholesterol and varying amounts of bile salts, bile pigments and inorganic calcium salts. When bile in the gallbladder becomes supersaturated with cholesterol, it combines with other sediment matter present and begins to form a stone. Dietary factors like high blood sugar, high calorie and saturated fat intake that lead to obesity are also involved. A stone may grow for 6 to 8 years before symptoms occur. Continued formation of gallstones is dependent on either increased accumulation of cholesterol or reduced levels of bile acids or lecithin. It’s easy to see that diet improvement will deter, even arrest, gallstones.

Gallstones Can Be Serious
Ninety-five percent of people suffering from cholecystitis have gallstones. If these symptoms sound like you, pay close attention and seek medical help immediately. An ultrasound test provides a definitive diagnosis.


Can You Prevent Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones have long afflicted mankind. Evidence of kidney stones has recently been found in a 7,000 year-old Egyptian mummy! Still, in every decade since World War II,  the U.S. has seen a steady rise in kidney stone cases. Today 10% of American men and 5% of American women have a kidney stone by the time they’re seventy. Kidney stones are a diet-related illness. They are directly linked to dehydration, low dietary fiber, high fats from large amounts of animal protein, sugary foods, and too much alcohol and salt. Notable amounts of unabsorbed calcium (usually from dairy sources or antacids), also play a part.

The above symptoms parallel the rise of the Standard American Diet, full of fat, fried foods, rich dairy products and sugar. Excessive use of antacids and adrenal exhaustion also contribute to kidney stones. Kidney stones form when minerals that normally float free in kidney fluids combine into crystals. When inorganic mineral waste overloads and the body has too little fluid, kidney stones form. There are three types of kidney stones: those composed of calcium salts, the most common type (75-85%), struvite, or non-calcium-containing crystals (10-15%), and uric acid crystals, at about 5-8% occurrence. It takes from 5 to 15 hours of vigorous, urgent treatment to dissolve and pass even small stones.

Kidney Stone Prevention Tips
A vegetarian diet, low in proteins and starches, that emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables and cultured foods to alkalize the system, is the key to avoiding kidney stone formation. This type of diet is high in fiber to reduce urinary calcium waste. Eliminate caffeine foods, salty, sugary and fried foods and soft drinks that inhibit kidney filtering. Avoid clogging, mucous-forming foods like dairy foods, heavy grains, starches and fats, to relieve irritation and inhibit sediment formation.