Saturday, March 29, 2014

It Doesn't Hurt: Natural Ways To Treat Pain has contributed a guest blog post on Natural ways to treat pain, and I am thrilled they chose this blog. I hope you all find this informative and professional. Thank you, Leslie Vandever, for the thoroughly researched submission. Enjoy! Namaste.

It Doesn’t Hurt: Natural Ways to Treat Pain

By Leslie Vandever
It’s in the news: a lot of Americans are addicted to narcotic painkillers. Teens steal them for parties, people “doctor-shop” so they can get a steady supply to sell at a huge profit on the streets, and some people plague the emergency rooms, faking pain to score pills for a weekend high.

News like that makes the rest of us a bit leery of taking painkillers. We don’t want to get addicted!

The fact is that opiate-based painkillers are very effective at relieving severe pain—and that most people never become addicted or dependent on them. Still, it’s worthwhile to explore other, more natural—and less controversial—ways to relieve pain.

First, though, let’s look at what hurts. Is your pain the result of an injury? Is it joint pain from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis? Did you strain your low back muscles carrying that 20-pound bag of dog food from the car into the house yesterday, or do you hurt because you have fibromyalgia? Is your pain mild? Moderate? Severe?

Different pain circumstances—and different people and their perceptions of pain—can mean different treatments. For instance, a capsicum- or camphor/menthol-based salve that you rub into the skin (for its heating or cooling sensations) can soothe sore muscles nicely. But the same salve might be only slightly effective on a joint flaring with rheumatoid arthritis—if it works at all.

Some topical, applied-to-the-skin remedies for muscle and low back pain include the above mentioned salves (made with natural ingredients), and cold or heat packs. These can be as simple as a bag of peas from the freezer. Just wrap the bag in a dish-towel and apply it to the sore place for 20 minutes. Then get that nice, grain-filled cloth bag you got for Christmas and heat it in the microwave. Apply it to the sore spot for another 20 minutes. Alternating cold and heat can be very effective at relieving muscle and back pain.

Some foods can be helpful in relieving pain, too.  Inflammation in the body and around the joints is behind much of the pain of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Research has shown that turmeric, the deep yellow, powdery spice used in Indian cuisine, can lower inflammation levels in the body somewhat. It’s important to understand which foods alleviate pain and what are the foods that cause inflammation.

There is also some evidence that the paleo diet can lower inflammation in the body. With paleo, you are free to eat lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits (sparingly), nuts and seeds, and healthy fats, like olive and canola oil. You eliminate dairy products, foods made from grain, beans and legumes, any processed foods or foods containing sugar, starchy foods, and all alcohol.
According to the American Nutrition Association, “Common dietary staples, such as cereal grains, beans, and legumes, contain lectins. These have anti-nutritional properties that influence enterocytes (cells that line the intestinal wall) and lymphocytes (cells in the blood, lymph, and lymphoid tissues that are part of the immune system).”

Lectins can quickly cross the gastrointestinal barrier. They enter the bloodstream intact, spreading easily throughout the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, they directly interact with the synovial tissue (the lining between the joints), causing inflammation and, in due course, stiffness, swelling and pain.

Eating a nutritious diet to maintain a healthy weight, getting plenty of sleep, taking time to get about 30 minutes of moderate exercise four days a week, and using topical cold and warmth all work toward lowering pain levels. When pain is severe, though, talk to your doctor. She may have some good ideas for treating both the pain and what’s causing it, too.

For more information on this and other health subjects, click here.

Leslie Vandever—known as "Wren" to the readers of RheumaBlog, her personal blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis—is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.

·         Exercise Helps Ease Arthritis Pain and Stiffness. (2013, Feb. 14) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on March 10, 2014 from
·         Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. (1999, Aug. 30) Cordain, L. Toohey, L., Smith, M.J., and Hickey, M.S. British Journal of Nutrition. The Nutrition Society. Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from
·         Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Frassetto, L.A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R.C., and Sebastian, A. (2009, Feb. 11) European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from
·         Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis. (n.d.) Nutrition Digest. American Nutrition Association. Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from
·         Using Heat and Cold for Pain Relief. (n.d.) Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Getting Through Cold and Flu Season the Homeopathic Style

This winter, as I've shared before in the post, "And After a Long Hiatus", has been brutal, but since last Saturday evening, I've had a cold/flu bug that has a strangle-hold on my body and now, unfortunately, my sinuses. I have friends recommend remedies, but one friend in particular, Maryann Young Davis, was able to really give me some recipes for herbal teas--some of which I've adapted to my own needs and tastes, and one of my own. I've just posted the best ones!
My dear friend, Maryann Young Davis

The first one she gave me was from this website Fiveremedies: Natural Home Remedies. Here's the recipe she sent:

2 teaspoons sage
juice of one lemon (or one teaspoon lemon balm herb)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey

To prepare the tea, pour one cup boiling water over sage and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs, add remaining ingredients, and drink hot.

Here's my adaptation:

I used all fresh herbs (as does she), and added large-leaf basil and Thai basil, and mint. I did not put this into a mug (not yet, at least), but rather steeped it in my French press for a half an hour. Very soothing.

Another recipe she adapted is Turmeric tea.

Turmeric tea stains anything it comes into contact with, so be extra careful!

1/3 cup/80 ml good, raw honey (I used Agave syrup)

2 1/2 t of dried turmeric
lots of freshly ground pepper
(she uses water, but I use almond milk)
(I added a tsp of coconut oil which seemed to bind the turmeric and help keep it from separating--it also is a yummy addition.)

Work the turmeric into the honey until it forms a paste. You can keep this on hand, in a jar, for whenever you'd like a cup.

For each cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot (but not boiling water) into the mug, and stir well to dissolve the turmeric paste. Add a big squeeze of juice from a lemon and a good amount of black pepper (do not skimp on!) Enjoy! Stir now and then as you drink it, so all the good stuff doesn't settle to the bottom, or top off with more hot water (almond milk) as needed. ENJOY!

My tea recipe:

In my french press I add:

1/4 cup of each (cleaned and chopped) 

fresh large leaf basil
Thai basil
peppermint (or any kind of mint--fresh or dried is fine)
1/2 lemon squeezed and then place lemon (rind and all) in the French press
honey (to taste)

Make sure to warm your French press first using hot water (from the tap is fine)

Empty water

Place all ingredients in the order they are listed into the French press

Stir to coat the leaves and lemon with honey. I find it helps the taste.
Then add just-boiling water to the French press and steep for 1/2 an hour. Plunge the ingredients with the top of the French press. (If you do not have one of these, you can do this in a 3-cup container and strain the leaves and lemon prior to drinking.)
Enjoy. This is yummy.

And of course my neti pot recipe, though I do not use a neti pot, but rather I use a cup and snuff the warm liquid until it enters my mouth, and I spit it out. My husband and children are GROSSED out when I do this, but it feels better to me than a neti pot does. It takes getting used to. 

Thank you, Maryann! Your presence here in IL is truly missed, but I'm so glad we continue to keep in contact. More now than when you lived in IL. Go figure!

Love to all. Namaste.

Monday, February 3, 2014

And After a Long Hiatus...

Other than the winter of '79, I do not remember such a brutal winter. Sure we in the Midwest experience cold snaps often during the winter months, but hey, we're used to it, right? Midwesterners are hearty people who thrive during adverse conditions. Well, let me tell you: this Midwestern girl has had enough. I haven't been so sedentary for this many months on end. I've gained weight, been down in the dumps since I can't go outside (too flippin' cold), and most importantly, I'm out of shape! So much so, I've kicked myself in the pants to get moving again.

I woke up on Sunday feeling oddly rejuvenated. I started to question why, but then my good sense kicked in and I went with it. I got my kids breakfast, got my hubby coffee, got dressed (sans makeup), and headed out the door to my yoga class. The warmth of the poolside was so familiar, it's like I hadn't been away for so many months. The instructor, Liz, seemed pleasantly surprised that I returned. I was certainly glad to be back. Thank God for my weekday asana practice (albeit 15 minutes) or I would have really struggled. I spent maybe a bit more time in Child's pose than I liked, but surprised myself by flying in the crow pose. The five minutes of savasana  was not nearly long enough, but I did get a chance to seal in my practice.

Once I got home, I noticed I was extremely irritable and, to be quite honest, angry. Why? I had a terrific workout? Jeff tried to engage me in conversation (his way to check my internal barometer, I guess), but I just could not seem to get rid of the irritation in my voice, so I just gave one-word answers. Mature, I know. I went and took an Epsom salt bath, and finished my savasana. And it hit me right between my eyes. I was angry at myself! I had gotten so out of shape that I was berating myself. Honestly, I was really surprised I felt this way. Quickly, I turned my thoughts over to gratitude; giving thanks that I actually had the energy and willingness to start up my practice again. The mind can be a dangerous place to navigate, let me tell you. Thank goodness I was able to take that first step getting back to the gym. Now if the weather would cooperate, I could get out to my garden. I hope this finds you all toasty warm and safe. Namaste.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Free Hugs--Pass it on!

My son came home from school yesterday and shared this video with me. His language arts teacher decided to show this to her class. This makes me so glad that teachers are going beyond the text and actually connecting to their students.  Take a look, and please tell me what you think. Your comments will be your hug to me. Here's mine to you!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Present to Myself

On my 50th birthday, I'm going to give myself a gift: a yoga retreat. For a couple of years I have had fantasies of going on a yoga retreat all by myself. It's a fantasy that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

While I love my alone time, I do not like being alone for extended periods; but if I am to be alone, home is where I want it to be. My sister sends me a plane ticket every year to visit her in Georgia--a place I love to visit, but if I'm to be honest with myself, fills me with longing for home. My home is my favorite place on Earth. The older I become, the harder it is for me to want to travel.

So why do I want to do this? I need to grow and move through my fears. I am not expecting that I will resolve these issues, but rather understand them better. Yoga has always been a safe place to explore my mind and body without judging.

Starting in January, I will be saving money so that when the time comes, I can pay for it outright. I've had my eye on a few retreats: California and New York retreats look enticing, but I think I'd rather stay within driving distance from my home. I have time, so no doubt I will choose the retreat that fits my needs at that time. I truly am looking forward to this. Namaste.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Starting to Emerge into Youthful Yogini

This has been a year of many trials and tribulations, but also many wonderful gifts. As it so happens, 13 is my lucky number, and it does not surprise me that the changes being made have happened in this year.
For years I have been struggling to find balance with my family, in my work, play, gardening, alone-time, theater (also being a board member to the theater group that I'm a part of). To start, I had to give up a part in a summer play, because the balance in my family life was way off kilter. That, in itself, was a wise decision. The growth my family and I have made has been a blessing, though the journey has not been an easy one. But the pressures we've endured have certainly made us a stronger, tightly-knit family. Here are the lessons I have learned to date:

  • Fake it til you make it, and act as if
  • I do not control my destiny...I only play my part
  • I do the next right thing without being attached to the outcome
  • I always left my doors unlocked to show to myself that I trusted the universe to keep me safe. Now I am safe, so I will lock my doors.
  • My higher power (inner guide, subconscious mind, raw intellect, God, whatever you may call it, I just choose to call it my higher power) had to wear me out so that I could see what was right in front of me.
  • I need Mrs. Biddlebox. Great children's book. Check it out.
  • I finally have stopped caring what people think of me (for the most part anyway).
  • I have allowed change (death of certain ways of life) in my life and the fear does not control me as it did before.
  • I've learned how to stop seeking permission to be happy.
  • And PLAY! My kids and I have been having so much fun. My husband just smiles and occasionally shakes his head. Jeff, my love, my life, my partner...that's what I've finally rediscovered.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

For years I have been making stuffed bell peppers for dinner. I never use a recipe, but rather throw ingredients in as my mood dictates. But this evening, Jeff really liked the peppers more than any I've ever made before, so I thought I'd put it down here, lest I forget!

***So this morning, my youngest son and I clipped some Thai basil leaves and large-leaf basil leaves off my plants (he calls these plants 'breath fresheners' because he plucks leaves off periodically and chews on them.) We cut them and placed them in a bowl (about 1/3 cup leaves) and added about 1/4 cup of pure olive oil. We covered them and let them sit all day. Now for the recipe:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
4 bell peppers (assorted colors) halved and steamed until tender, but not overdone. 
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
***basil leaves soaked in pure olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (make sure they are gluten free)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups instant rice
scant teaspoon of each: marjoram, rosemary, thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
few dashes of tobasco sauce 
shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350◦. Strain the basil leaves from the olive oil and preheat the oil in a skillet. (Reserve the basil.) Saute the onions for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini and saute for a minute more. Then add the minced garlic and the basil leaves. Heat briefly--no more than 30 seconds. 

Remove contents of skillet to a bowl and then brown the ground meat. 

In the meantime, half and steam peppers. 

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cheddar cheese and peppers, and cook covered over medium heat until all the water is absorbed by the rice. You may need to add more rice if there is still water remaining. 

Place peppers hollow side up and fill with meat/rice mixture. Top with shredded cheddar just for taste. Do not add more than a tablespoon to each, otherwise the flavor and texture will not be ideal.

Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

I had taken a standard banana bread recipe and converted it to gluten free and added my own twist. It turned out fabulous! Here's the recipe:

2 cups of Carol Kicinski's flour recipe***
1 cup of gluten-free rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
3-4 medium-sized ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce (be brave: try the chunky kind!)
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, then add the remaining ingredients. Mix together the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and mix until blended. Do not over mix.

Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray. Mix a tablespoon of sugar and a scant teaspoon of cinnamon together. Sprinkle on the prepared pans. Divide mixture between two loaf pans, or if you want a large loaf, you can use one--but you'll need to increase the time to bake. (You may need to cover the bread with foil if you need to increase the time so as not to burn the loaf.)

Bake at 350ยบ for 45-55 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center of the loaves. If it comes out clean it is done. Cool at least 10 minutes. Slowly remove the loaves and transfer to wire rack to cool. 

Tastes excellent toasted!

***Carol Kicinski's flour recipe
4 1/2 cups white rice flour
1 1/2 cups sweet glutinous rice flour (can find in the Asian section of grocery stores)
2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
1 cup tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour)
4 teaspoons xanthan gum

Friday, June 28, 2013

One Year Gluten Free

It was one year that I went gluten free at the beginning of June 2012. I would say that the biggest change in doing so is that I crave really healthy foods. I used to be gassy, have stomach cramps all the time, and now I rarely experience those symptoms. Most of the time my joints are feeling better, though I do have to say, this terrible weather we have been having with those vicious storms have not helped in that area at all. So I muscle through those bad days as best I can.

I also find that I am very full after eating foods that are gluten free. I remember eating wheat bread, donuts, muffins, etc...and feeling hungry about two hours later. That does not happen any more. I think the different flours that I use are more nutritious and satisfying than wheat and do not create the addiction that wheat products can. See my post on Gluten Free for 7 days  to read about that.

I do not miss anything with gluten, because I have found comparable to even better substitutes for my favorite foods. Here are some of the foods & ingredients I really like that I keep on hand always:

  • This cookbook Simply...Gluten-free Desserts by Carol Kicinski has a great flour recipe that can be used cup-for-cup with any dessert recipe that calls for wheat flour.
  • Pacific organic condensed soups
  • Swanson's Chicken Broth or other broth soups. Check the labels. Buying these soups in the GF section is way over priced. Just be sure to check the labels.
  • Kinnickinnick Foods are terrific. I use their pizza crusts and they are fabulous. It takes a bit of experimenting with different sauces and toppings, but it's worth the trouble.
  • Glenny's Snacks has great go-to snacks. I love their breakfast bars.
  • Glutino has good breakfast bars and breads, but I think Kinnickinnick has the best breads, but I usually choose to bake my own.
  • I use Bob's Red Mill flours when baking bread. The sweet glutinous rice flour (gluten free) is found in the Asian section of most stores, not the gluten free section for some reason.
I cannot say enough about going gluten free. My stomach troubles have gone, my joints feel mostly better, and I eat much more healthy and mindfully than I did before (and I already ate healthy!) If you have any wow recipes or products you've found, please comment. I love to find new foods and I love to experiment. For all the Americans reading this blog, Happy 4th of July! Namaste.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breath Work

A dear friend of mine made a comment today about a link I had posted on Facebook: Yogic Breathing with Seane Corn. I find the breath to be amazing, as I had written in The Subtleties of the Breath. She had stated that she didn't want to do yoga until she lost her weight. She said, "When I lose most of my weight I'm diving into simply wasn't designed for fat people."

My response to her was that yoga is available to everyone. It is all about breath and awareness. When we break down our misconceptions about yoga, it becomes accessible to everyone. I remember when I first started getting The Yoga Journal, and one of the first covers I saw was of a woman doing the crow pose.This pose seemed completely unreachable to me. But years later, as I broke down the pose into its smallest of parts, my mind was able to envision how it was supposed to look. Once I got the image and the "feel" of what it would take to do that posture, it began to become more attainable. I am in no way a crow pose expert, far from it, but when I fly in that pose, if I am not mindful of my breath and aware of where my body is in space, I will do a face plant for sure.

So to put a finer point on it, yoga is breath and awareness of our bodies and minds in space and time. Period. The trouble is, remembering that. Namaste.