Nov 17, 2006

Natural health for cold and flu season

To go along with my last post, I wanted to share some insights that I have gained in my (short) experience treating illness through natural means. Please, everyone add their two cents.

Colds-- lots of vitamin C. Lots of fluids, of course. And avoid those sugars and dairy like the devil.

Sinus infection-- Tea-tree and peppermint oil. I put the tea tree oil in a pot of water, boil it, and then breathe in the vapors. A towel over the head helps. You look silly, but when you're sick enough, how you look doesn't matter. I apply the peppermint oil to the areas of my forehead, cheekbones, jawline and hairline where I can feel sinus pressure. (be careful to avoid the eyes by a wide margin). I think that this works even better than pill-based decongestants-- and without the side effect of anxiety from long-term use.

Flu-- Emergen-C works as an electrolyte balancer in mild cases. But don't hesitate to seek medical help if you're becoming really dehydrated-- that's pretty dangerous, especially with kids.

Here's a recipe for the soup that I use in lieu of chicken noodle soup. It might sound yucky to some of you, but I think it has a rich, round flavor, and the steamed mung beans are very like noodles, and without the refined flours that will contribute to illness.

Mung-Bean Miso soup.

1/2 pound of Mung beans.

2/3 cup of thinly-shaved cabbage, purple or green (the purple will turn the soup dark blue, so look out.)

2 green onions, chopped.

1/2 package of Bonito fish flakes. (you can use the broth cubes, which are easily found in Asian stores, but almost all of them have MSG. I like the fish flakes because they do not have MSG added.)

Steam these all together in about 3 1/2-4 cups of water for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables feel really soft-- almost melting.

Let the soup cool a little (to bearable eating temperature,) and add 2/3 cup of red miso (easily found at discounted prices in Asian stores, or health food stores.)

VERY healthy, and very nice when you're sick.

If you want to do something fancy with this soup, add baby bok choy instead of the cabbage-- the texture of bok choi in soup is really nice.

natural and allopathic healing

My mom is an LPN. The reason why she doesn't have her RN degree is because she quit the program, two weeks before completing it, because my little sister wasn't handling childcare very well. My mom is my hero for doing this. But that's another post.

Anyway, she is a very knowledgeable person when it comes to healing and medicine and various other nursing matters. I have always called her for advice whenever I have a baby sick.

Skywalker's mom is really into natural health. So is my mom. The difference between them (from what I can tell/know) is that Skywalker's Mom did all that she could to avoid having to take a little one to the Dr. My mom would wait until we seemed seriously in need of intervention, but if we were miserable enough to stay home from school, that warranted a Dr.'s visit. She combined things like essential oils and Echinacea with Allopathic stuff such as antibiotics.

Both moms have had some difficulty with vaccinations. Skywalker's Mom decided, after Skywalker went through his rounds of childhood shots, to not vaccinate any of the rest of her kids. I haven't asked her if she was inspired by a bad reaction in one of her babies, or not.

My little sister (the second of us) reacted badly to one of her 3-month shots. She screamed with a pained, high-pitched scream for hours and was feverish for a long time. This experience lead my mom to decide against vaccination for all the rest of her children, until they became teenagers. Or at least, older children.

At any rate, I'm trying to figure out what I believe as far as healing naturally vs allopathically is concerned.

My family just got over a bout of flu. Poor little Loli, who doesn't have much of a margin as far as weight loss is concerned, could not keep fluid down for several hours that first night. I realized that, with Loli especially, this is not something to be messing with. I headed straight over to the health food store. upon recommendation from the herbal consultant there, got Emergen-C, some Vitamin a capsules, and some chewable acidopholus vitamins.

Loli couldn't keep any of it down. Even at a teaspoon an hour, she was still throwing it up.

Time to see the Dr, in my opinion. Our doctor is a Naturopath and an MD, and so she's friendly to the idea of no vaccinations. (in fact, the first thing she said to me in the hospital when she came to examine Jaws was, "you refused the hep B, right?")

This is not intended to inspire a debate about vaccines. What I want to discuss is natural remedies for illness. By the time Loli made it into the Dr.'s office, she was so dehydrated that the Dr was borderline thinking about admitting her to the hospital for IV fluids. Finally, he decided to give us until 7 that night to see if she could keep a significant amount down.

I took Loli home and bought Pedialyte (not natural medicine, but by far better than Emergen-C for electrolyte re-balance), and she was able to take a little bit every fifteen minutes. By seven she was looking nice and pink again.

So in my opinion, there is a time and a season for everything, and a purpose under heaven. The time for Natural Medicine is mostly in preventing horrible illnesses, I think. If you keep your diet balanced and exercise regularly, you can usually ward off most viruses. I know this from experience-- since reforming my own eating habits, I have hardly ever been sick. Before, I was sick with every season change.

But sometimes you still get sick, no matter what sort of preventative measures you take. Especially, children get sick.

I think that it's important to be willing to go either route-- natural or allopathic, if it might mean the better health of a child (or adult.)

So here I am, as usual, willingly straddling the fence. I like fence-straddling. It's a nice, comfortable spot to sit and watch everyone on either side of the fence duke things out with one another.

Nov 11, 2006


In the wake of the midterm elections, I have noticed a disturbing increase in the meanness-level of political blog debates.

Now, most people are pretty civil when discussing politics. This makes me happy and restores my faith in the thought that perhaps religion and politics are not off-limit topics in friendly, socially uplifting conversation.

But back to the meanness-- I've seen some pretty intense name calling. Personal attacks. Extreme defensiveness. Passionate lashing out. I have also noticed that some of these mean blogs and blog responses are from people who are typically tactless. I have to wonder if they're as tactless in real life? Or if the anonymity of the internet gives them a safe place in which to vent without feeling like they're hurting "real" people.

Hmmm. I think that sort of irresponsibility is unnacceptable.

Skywalker and I were discussing this the other night, and he came up with a brilliant idea-- the Mean-O-Meter. This would be a program where people could rate the quality and nature of one another's comments. The information from these ratings would be computed by the program and consequently, each blogger would earn a distinctive mark that would set him apart according to his typical rating.

And get this-- the most brilliant part-- those who have been rated as mean-- their font size would decrease. So the more mean ratings they'd get, the smaller their typeface would become until-- voila. They're just writing gibberish that we can't bother to read 'cuz we don't want to break out our trusty magnifying glass.

What do you think?

Nov 7, 2006

the Lump

Lolipopaholic has a little friend-- let's call her Tutuchild. Loli and Tutu play together a couple of times a week. They LOVE each other. It's been funny to see their attachment develop-- first it was two-year-old attachment, where they sort of played alongside each other and got along as long as they didn't get in each others' way. Then they learned to play together-- fantastical imagined games, loud rowdy screaming fun, bossing each other until they end up crying and requiring reconciliation by whatever parental figure is present.

Lately, however, it's taken another turn-- attachment. For the past few months, Loli looks despondent whenever it's time for Tutu to go, and Tutu will burst into tears and give the offending parent(me)covert evil glances as I hustle loli out the door.

Just this last week, they've started doing things in BETWEEN their visits for each other. Loli writes notes for Tutu and draws pictures for her, talks about her all the time. She's been making 'emails' (a piece of paper with a picture and letters scribbled on it, folded in half and stickered to death) for Tutu and giving them to her when they visit.

In return, Tutu is peppering us with random cards, obviously snatched from a stockpile somewhere-- cards with a picture of a baby being blessed, cards with flowers and birds, etc. Last week, Tutu gave Loli a "present"-- a blue gift bag with some alphabet-fridge letters, a few cards, and this random thing that looks like stale bread dough with a twisty tie around it.

In return, Loli gave Tutu (the same) gift bag with her little plastic ring (which she adores, so it's kind of touching) and some pictures and letters.

The stuff is lying around on her desk. I go through the pile of stuff on Loli's desk every few days and sort through the thirty or so pictures she has drawn/painted/stamped, saving out the best and tossing the rest. (I know, it sounds cruel... but I can't save three hundred pictures a month!) Anyway, I also tossed the bread dough piece in the trash.

Three hours later-- Loli, giving me a hurt look, takes the bread dough from the trash. "Mom, you can't throw this away!"

I turn to her. "Loli, why do you want that? What is it, anyway?"

Long pause. "It's the lumpy thing that Tutu gave me!"

So now it sits safely on her desk, enshrined along with her bear-shaped fingerpainting sponge (fingerpaints long dried up), her maple leaf from our walk last Saturday, and her collection of topless markers. (One of these days, I'm going to arrest them all for indecent exposure and put them Where They Belong, ala trashe canne. But I'll have to do it when Loli's not looking).

In a way, I wish that I could be as undemanding as a 4 year old-- accepting a lump as token of affection.

But then, a diamond ring is much more fun than bread dough. So maybe I'll keep my expectations high.


Nov 4, 2006

Squash, anyone?

Have you ever wondered what the heck you're supposed to do with squash, other than steam it with butter and brown sugar and eat it? Personally, I don't like squash that much when it's prepared that way. And yet, squash is so nutritious, and is so good for you in the fall/winter.

For the past year or two, I have been looking around for delicious ways to prepare squash. Here are two that I have found:

cream soups. You take vegetable broth and steamed butternut squash and blend them up in a blender to create a soup base, to which you add vegetables and spices/any other thing that you like in your soups or stews.

And this one, from my mother-in-law's cookbook:

Spaghetti-squash casserole.

1 pckg stovetop or generic boxed stuffing, prepared. (Any flavor works, but we stick to herb or onion and mushroom to minimize meat-eating.)

3 cups steamed spaghetti squash (could be one whole one, or half-- it varies with the squash, lol).

mix 'em up, bake them for 10 minutes at 350 in a casserole dish.

Yum. Even squash haters will like this one, I think.

OK, now it's your turn-- squash recipes, anyone??

a great movie!

Last night, Skywalker checked a movie out of the library and we watched it. It's called the Snake Pit. It's about a woman who is experiencing a nervous breakdown and is put in an institution, and how she comes to herself. It's very descriptive of the experience of being institutionalized, and institutions back then (the 1940's).

Olivia De Havilland stars in it. She's most famous for her role as Melanie in Gone With The Wind. I adore her, and I think that she and Ingrid Bergman are the two most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen.

SO interesting to me, because I worked in a residential treatment facility. All of the issues surrounding human services in the mental health field-- how much is too much, what's helping and what's not, when to let someone go on their own and complete their recovery, what sort of boundaries ought to exist between staff and patients and what is just plain meanness as far as boundaries are concerned.

It reminds me of two other, more contemporary stories: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest (which I haven't watched, but I have read the book), and Girl, Interrupted (ditto.)

One Flew is more pointed in its denunciation of the inhumanity of mental health practices and the dehumanizing of mental-health patients.

Girl, Interrupted is just a sort of "this is what happened, this is who I am, here are some of the notes straight from the charting the staff did while I was in the facility" thing. No real preachy-ness, just a biographical recounting of the year she spent in an institution. BTW, this movie has another of my most favorite hollywood personalities-- Angelina Jolie.

SOOOO interesting. I highly reccommend all of these. (If you watch R rated movies. Which I don't. But read the books, if you don't watch the movies.)

Nov 1, 2006

Vegan Broccoli-cheese soup

Mine Own Recipe. I have discovered the cheese-like deliciousness of nutritional yeast flakes. you can use them in conjunction with olive oil and onion powder on popcorn to get a delicious buttered/cheese popcorn flavor. You can mix it with veg bullion, tamari and tomato paste to get a cheese-tomato sauce. This recipe is delicious (in my opinion) and I'm a conosseur of broccoli-cheese soups. (the best? Quiznos. Hands-down.) Anyway:

1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tb. tamari sauce
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I use the cube kind, but the powdered kind is also nice--make sure it's vegan if you want to keep your soup vegan).
1 1/2 tb. vegetable oil

Simmer these until the broccoli and onions are nice and tender. Blend in a blender for about a minute.

Then, put in:

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes (not brewers, although that might taste nice too, I dunno)
1/2 tsp paprika
and 1/3 cup vegenese.

Salt and pepper to taste.

:) :) It's good.