Sunday, November 15, 2009

Warnings About Vitamin D

First, a note that I am not a health professional, just someone who likes to read.

We're starting to hear a lot about vitamin D lately, and it is no wonder. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several types of cancer (especially breast cancer), high blood pressure, diabetes (types 1 AND 2), depression, osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders, stroke, Alzheimers, the list goes on and on. This is an essential vitamin, known casually as "the sunshine vitamin" because our bodies can manufacture vitamin D from the UV rays of the sun. I have a Google Alert on vitamin D so that I can keep up with new info about it. About 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D. About 80% of women in the US are at least marginally deficient. Also, more and more children are being diagnosed as deficient in vitamin D. In fact, certain diseases once though to be eradicated, such as rickets, are making a comeback and this has health officials baffled. In big cities, they are starting to see kids who are obese, but suffer from malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. What is particularly scary about vitamin D deficiency affecting children, is that it seems that a severe deficiency early in life will contribute to health problems later....Even if vitamin D levels are brought back up when they are older. (There has been a link made between women who are deficient as youths battling high blood pressure later in life, even after the deficiency was corrected.) 

There are very few food sources of vitamin D apart from sunshine, and with the exception of one, all of them are animal sources. Good, whole milk contains vitamin D, as well as eggs from pastured chickens, but keep in mind that pasteurization destroys all the pathogens, and all the nutrients as well. Manufacturers then add back cheap synthetic, chemically created nutrients which are near-worthless to the body. Especially the vitamin D that they add: most companies boast a "vegetarian source" of vitamin D, meaning D2. That's great, except the vitamin D with all the health benefits is D3, or Cholecalciferol. Also, egg yolks from pastured chickens contain vitamin D, but most chickens today have never seen a pasture. It is a big deal for egg producers to put "vegetarian diet" on their egg-cartons, to let you know that they aren't putting anything sick or gross in their chicken feed (like they put in cattle-feed). That's all well and good, except that chickens aren't meant to be vegetarians: they're omnivores. They love to scavenge and eat insects and worms (remember: insects are an excellent source of high-quality protein!). When chickens are put on a restricted diet, many nutrients found in pastured eggs don't make it into the eggs of commercial chickens. That's why you can only be sure your eggs yolks contain vitamin D if they come from pastured chickens who were allowed to graze and eat their natural diet. 

Of course, the best food-source of vitamin D is from fatty fish, such as salmon, and high quality cod-liver oil. But, of course, we're told to steer clear of fish whenever possible because they are hopelessly contaminated! The least-contaminated fish are deep, cold-water fish from the Pacific ocean which are low on the food chain, like sardines. If you take cod liver oil, do your research to find out how it is processed. Choose the darkest oil you can find (lighter oils likewise nutrient-light). Molecularly distilled is apparently the best process for removing heavy-metals and other pollutants while keeping nutrients intact. The great thing about Cod Liver Oil is that it also contains vitamin A, and the ratio of A to D is in perfect proportion (as are the ratio of omega-6-to-omega-3's). According to The Weston A. Price Foundation, any intake of vitamin D increases your body's need for vitamin A.  But I digress....

The only plant source of vitamin D is found in mushrooms, and it is a scant supply at best. But isn't it fascinating that the only plant source of "the sunshine vitamin" is found in a fungi that grows in the shade???? I think so.

Vitamin D is essential to support your immune system, and has been proven to be more effective at preventing the flu than the flu vaccine....Wait, what???? So, doctors and other healthcare professionals must really be encouraging people to take their vitamin D this winter, right? Wrong. In fact, the opposite is true: doctors often discourage taking vitamin D supplements, recommend no more than 400 IUs of the vitamin, and advise avoiding cod liver oil "to avoid toxicity." Wow. If doctors warn about vitamin D toxicity, it must really be devastating, right? That's what I wanted to know, and this is what I found:
Vitamin D CAN be toxic at extremely high doses. In fact, it is used in rat poison for this very reason (as is Coumadin, a blood thinner which is extremely prevalent in most medicine cabinets). But according to The Vitamin D Council, the dose at which vitamin D will kill half the rats tested, is the equivalent dose of 110-lb human adult ingesting 176,000,000 IUs (that's one-hundred, seventy-six million IUs, in case you have trouble counting the zeros). Also, the only reported case of pharmacological vitamin D toxicity was a man who took an over-the-counter supplement which contained a manufacturing error: the man was unknowingly taking almost 2,000,000 IUs of vitamin D daily for two years. So what happened? He recovered, uneventfully, after proper diagnosis, with a treatment of steroids and sunscreen. And just what are the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity? Well, they appear to be nausea, heartburn, and constipation or diarrhea. Because vitamin D is a natural blood thinner (which is why it is important for blood pressure and heart health), it can thin the blood too much when taken in excessive doses, causing dizziness. oh, my! Dizziness! What a horrible side-effect! So much worse than stroke or lymphoma, a common side-effect of many prescription drugs, which is a particularly deadly type of cancer that attacks the lymph system. Wait...what? So, doctors have no qualms prescribing drugs known to cause an aggressive type of cancer with a low survival rate in order to treat restless-leg syndrome, but are fearful of you getting more than 400 IUs of vitamin D on the basis of "toxicity", which will affect you basically the same way as a Chicago-style deep dish pizza? 

If we follow the logic that because we were meant to make vitamin D from the sun, we could measure how much vitamin D we make during a day in the sun and consider that a healthy dose, right? So just how much vitamin D do you make from the sun? Well, 30 minutes (sans sunscreen) in the summer sun, and you'll make over 10,000 IU's of vitamin D. But wait...I thought the RDA was only 400 IU's, for fear of toxicity! So this must mean that every person who ever lived before the invention of sunscreen suffered from vitamin D toxicity! That's a lot of constipated people! Or, could it possibly be that we need MUCH, MUCH MORE vitamin D than was previously realized? Considering that all the diseases that vitamin D is known to prevent are only modern phenomena's and are directly correlated with the modern phenomenon of vitamin D deficiency, I'd say the later is more logical. 

I have decided to take 4,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily, and have had only positive results. I could probably do more, but it is true that it doesn't pay to be over-zealous with supplements. And I don't have time to get the runs.

3 A.M. Musings

As I lie awake drinking some Airborne and wait for my latest round of 2,000 mg of vitamin C to go down, I can't help but think things over. Maybe it is all the hormones that make me pensive. I make an effort to take more of a "let go and move on" approach, but sometimes we can think over events and acknowledge things for what they actually were without dwelling. Perhaps true healing has occurred when you can think on things with no attached emotional response. If that is the case, then I've still got a ways to go, but I can tell that things don't smart like they used to.

When it comes to my divorce, most people assume that I must be devastated (after all, how can a woman possibly be happy without a man to validate her existence?).  There is an unspoken assumption that permeates our society that even a bad marriage is better than no marriage at all. That it is better to have anybody than to have nobody. I can tell you from experience now, that this idea is wrong. Of course, there are many reasons to both end or stay in a marriage, and each situation is unique. But what I can tell you, is that it is better to be single than to be married to the wrong person. I can look back now and acknowledge that I never should have married him in the first place, that it was never right from day one. But that doesn't mean that I regret it, and it doesn't erase that there were good times that I can look back on. My wedding day is still a happy memory. If I had to do it all over again, I would have to make the same decisions because that is how I got my children. And I can look back now and say, "I didn't take an easy road; I didn't take the "right" road, but God in His grace has still blessed me tremendously, and so I am very grateful." Now, don't get me wrong: I have made mistakes and there are certain consequences that I have to pay. And it hurts to say, "yep, that's me! that was a mistake and I willingly made it! No one else is responsible but me!" but that is the only way that I can move on.

Many people also assume that I filed for divorce because I wasn't happy. Happiness, my friends, can only be found between your ears. And unfortunately, we take our mental attitude with us wherever we go. If I were not happy married, no way could I be happy single (and vice versa!). Happiness was never the issue. And while my reasons are between God and me and no one else, all I can tell you is that I could not bring myself to stay married simply to avoid the stigma of divorce. People also assume that just because a marriage lasts, it is successful, but that is far from the truth. And people assume that marriages can be made to "work" through compromise, but that is also a lie. Marriage is not about compromise: when you live your life and treat your spouse as God commands you to, compromise is unnecessary. "Compromise" is a term cooked up so that we do not have to acknowledge when we are out of line and don't want to do the right thing. Marriage, when you break it down, is not about finding the right man or woman for you, it is about being the right man or woman every day. It is about living with honor, honesty, and integrity, and loving your spouse more than you love you own body. "Compromise" is a sham, because you are not responsible for how they treat you: you are only responsible for how you treat them. I am now of the opinion that if you do not treat your spouse better than yourself, you are a failure.

So what do you do when you are married to someone who is enamored with the term "compromise" and who would rather live justifying their actions by the failure of others rather than live as God commands them? Well, there are exactly two options, neither one is good, both are riddled with consequences. I think you can guess which option I chose.

But as I prepare to go back to bed, all I can say is that nothing in my life turned out as I imagined it, but every day that I get to wake up and be mommy to the three most precious children ever born, I am truly happy. Every day I wake up and am dizzy with wonder at the Grace of God, that He would entrust their souls to someone who has failed as much as I have. For it is for their eternal lives that I wake up and go to work every day. I have only one purpose in life, and that is to ensure that they come to love the Lord.

Divorce is horrible and devastating, but God is good, and He has proven to me again and again that He can turn all things to good for those that love Him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thought of the Day

I've been observing that most people (including myself!)  have one set of morals for how they treat someone they like, and a completely different set of morals for how they treat someone they don't like, or are mad at. What I find interesting is that several of these people I have observed have taught Sunday school at some point in their lives. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), there is only ever one right way to treat anyone, and one's behavior can never be justified by the actions of another. We are all responsible, not only for our actions, but for every thought that runs in our head. And one day, we will be held accountable.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Delicate Balance

I'm at that point in pregnancy that when planning what I'm going to eat, I have to strike a delicate balance between two thoughts: 1) if this is my last meal before I go into labor, would it give me the nutrients I need to sustain me through?; and 2) if this is my last meal before I go into labor, would I be comfortable throwing it up?

I'm trying to choose meals with lots of iron and potassium, as well as vitamin C to keep my immune system up. Tonight I have the added bonus of fighting off yet another virus that we are passing around (which my girls brought home from Sunday school. This happens every time they go with their grandparents, but that is a rant for another time). My poor, pregnancy-depleted immune system is putting up a good fight, though! So far I've managed to keep any real misery at bay and am just a little tired and have a runny nose. My littlest one, again, had the lightest case, but my older one is having a tough time getting over it. I think what is so hard is that when they are so little, there is nothing you can give them to make them more comfortable. That is why I rely so heavily on food and nutrition to help heal right now. I am a firm believer that when you are truly sick, you need medicine, but let's face it: if you don't provide your immune system with the support it needs, how can it possibly work? So it's lots of sunshine for us, as well as foods rich in vitamin C, such as kiwi, sweet potatoes, and chicken broth. Sweet potatoes are especially good, because they are so rich in vitamin A, which you need to absorb vitamin D, which you need to absorb vitamin C. In fact, vitamin C has had its time in the media spotlight, and vitamin D is currently getting all the attention as it is becoming more widely studied, but vitamin A isn't really thought much about. However, any intake in vitamin D drastically increases your body's need for vitamin A, so I predict that in the next 2-5 years we'll start hearing more about how important this vitamin is for good health.

I'm trying very hard to stay out of the processed foods (but did I mention that my mother brought home 2-dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts...and then conveniently went to Texas and left me alone with them???), not just because they are empty calories and not good for my waistline and are useless to the baby, but also because the acidity of sugar will deplete your immune system, making you even more vulnerable to colds and viruses. I've done pretty well, but if only I could stay off processed foods completely! I'm getting there. It's been at least a week since I've eaten out. However, there is something about bread, carbs, and sugar that SEEMS so comforting when you don't feel good. Too bad they actually make you more tired.

Thought of the Day

What is it about pillow covers (not pillow cases: pillow covers!) that makes me feel so darn civilized?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Garden Surprise!

I went out back to feed some rose bushes that were transplanted this summer (not at all a good time to transplant roses, but this was necessary as the bed they were comfortably settled in was being taken out as we re-worked our yard). I discovered that a tomato plant which I had left for dead over the summer has somehow survived....and is producing fruit! There are only 6 green tomatoes on the vine, so it is far from a large crop, but I am almost in shock. I have not even looked at it in months. Probably not since August. And I certainly had no idea that tomatoes could mature in November! This is what I love about gardening: the surprises! I wonder if gardening will hold the same fascination for me once I become more experienced? Right now, I know almost diddly-squat about gardening. Until about a month ago, I couldn't tell you what Zone I lived in. And yet somehow I have fumbled through it all and had a good crop of okra, eggplant, and peppers (which I am currently drowning under. Didn't know peppers would mature in November, either, although they are in the same family as the tomato!), and have now successfully started plants from seed. It makes me feel like a magician: all I started with was a tiny seed and some dirt. But! Combine with water and you get a plant. Amazing!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

There's a Lot Happening Around Here!

It has been a busy weekend! In anticipation of baby #3, I have put up TONS of food in the freezer. Although I'm very excited to know that I'll have good food once the baby is born and NOT HAVE TO COOK, I am a bit concerned about "out of sight, out of mind"! Here's a little of what I put in the freezer today, as well as other things that I made:

2 whole chickens, roasted with garlic, onions, and rosemary. One in freezer. Will make chicken stock later.
Creamy Chicken Soup (in freezer)
Broccoli, Cheese, and Rice Casserole (in freezer)
Homemade Granola Bars
Lentil and Vegetable Soup (in freezer)
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (in freezer: will post recipe after tweaking!)
Grilled chicken breasts (in freezer): perfect for defrosting and using on salads!

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to make Potato Soup with Leeks and freeze it. That's a lot of soups, but they are so easy to freeze and are hard to mess up! Plus they are so filling on cool evenings, and are (usually) very nutrient-dense. AND, a one-pot supper means fewer dishes. What's not to love? Soups with bone-broths are especially good for pregnant and nursing mommies. Bone-broths are LOADED with iron and calcium, among other good things, which are very important for our heavy nutritional needs. I didn't do any this weekend, but I think there are still a couple of pot roasts in the freezer, as well as a meatloaf. We should be eating good this winter! I also want to make home-made macaroni and cheese and freeze individual portions for my girls, so that my mom or their dad can make them a quick and easy lunch. I spend hours every day making sure the girls eat good food. I consider macaroni and cheese to be good food, as long as it isn't from a box (I'm usually using whole-wheat pasta and high-quality cheeses, plus sneaking in a carrot or two). However, no one but me will take the time to do anything more than the boxed stuff, so I need to have it done ahead of time. 

My Swiss Chard and Kale seeds have sprouted! We have FINALLY had a solid week of sunshine after weeks and weeks or rain, and this morning I noticed the little green buds pushing up out of the dirt. I am so excited! This makes four things I have started from seed: chives, catmint, and now Swiss Chard and Kale. Now, if only I can nurture them into healthy seedlings! I'm afraid if we don't get more sun, that might not be possible (I'm not set-up to start seeds indoors, and don't have a window that gets enough sun). My one complaint about the egg carton is that it dries out FAST. I'm always having to check it. But so far, it has served me well. And at a cost of free (coz I'm buying the eggs anyway!) it's hard to beat. Hopefully I will get around to posting a picture soon, but with the baby coming, I'm doing get just to get things updated, much less upload a picture! 

Everything that I planted directly in the compost is thriving! That's one of the best tips I ever read! Someday, I hope to get my own composter, but until then, compost is dirt cheap (sorry for the pun), at around $3.00 a bag. That's much cheaper than potting soil. What I have noticed about the compost is how well it drains, yet it doesn't dry out completely, either.  It has been perfect for all of my containers. I'm totally hooked on this black gold!

I have some garlic that I need to get in the ground, but I admit that I am hesitant. I've never started garlic before, and the directions say to wait for the first frost, around the first of November in our zone. Well, the first of November has come and gone....and no frost! Directions say that the temp is more important than the date, so I am holding off, but I'm nervous! This heirloom garlic was expensive, and I'll be very disappointed if I kill it. 

I guess that's all the updates for now! Time for sleep!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Transfer of Responsibility

The issue of household chores has come up in our household recently. My oldest is not quite 3 1/2 and my little one is not quite 2 years old, but I feel that they are more than capable of taking on a little bit of responsibility. This is a concept that I had only thought vaguely about, but after reading Dr. James Dobson's excellent book, Hide or Seek on building self-esteem, the idea of a transfer or responsibility is something that I've been a lot of thought into. 

The idea of household chores is not new. I always felt that my kids would have to help out around the house. My brothers and I all had chores and responsibilities growing up, and I always thought that it was important, but didn't think much about why is was important. However, after giving it a lot more thought, I've come to have the opinion that not only is this transfer of responsibility vital for a child's self-esteem, but to not begin this transfer is detrimental to both you and your child. The ultimate goal of parenting is to raise a thoughtful, capable, successful, and happy person who is adaptable and well-adjusted. This is every parent's dream. Dr. Dobson puts it this way: when a baby is born, they have zero responsibility and are totally dependent upon the parents. The idea is to gradually turn responsibility over to them as they grow, so that when they reach young-adulthood, say around 20-21, they are 100% responsible. This transfer of responsibility, Dobson argues, cannot be avoided for years and then suddenly dumped upon the child when they are teenagers. It is something that has to be done by degrees, and it must be started early. I agree. If for all of a child's life you have forced them to depend on you for everything, then not only will they not be able to handle responsibility when you finally do turn it over, but they will not be able to appreciate what it means.  I feel that this is what leads to spoiled child. My opinion is that you do not spoil a child by giving them things, and you cannot spoil a child by loving them too much. You spoil a child when you never make them do anything, and allow them to take without ever appreciating. I feel that the lack of a grateful heart goes hand-in-hand with a lack of empathy. And a lack of empathy is one of the defining characteristics among criminals. Hhhmmmm.

I always try to get the girls involved in household chores, such as laundry and cooking and picking up toys, because I feel that they will never appreciate that those things have to be done if they aren't participating in the process. If I wait until they go to sleep, just so it will be easier on me, and then the girls wake up and their clothes are "magically" washed and their toys "magically" put away, they will never appreciate that I did it for them. They will learn nothing but how to take it for granted that I will just do it for them. So they've always helped me pick out produce and put clothes in the dryer, but it was still always just at my convenience. Now I feel that they are old enough to understand that you can't play until you work, and so I'm trying to make sure that we do all our chores in the morning before playtime. And no playtime until chores are done. They have to carry their dirty dishes to the sink, put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper, put away their toys, and help me make their beds. More chores will be added as they get older, but that's it so far. Not too terrible, huh? What I found surprising at first is how much they seem to enjoy helping me. In fact, they now want to help me do all kinds of chores, and I do let them help out when it's safe (it's just not safe for them to help wash dishes right now!), but I shouldn't be surprised: children always want to do whatever they see their parents do. Which is why parenting is pushing me so hard to be more organized and on top of things. The best way to teach is by example.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Great Day

Today has been one of those super-amazing-wonderful days. First, it started with an early rise (my oldest clearly did not get the memo about sleeping an extra hour), and then after a bite-to-eat, outside into the sunshine to ride tricycles (well, my daughter, not me). We pretended to be a train and kept stopping to pick up animals. Then it was fall crafts, and then my youngest woke up. So we made pancakes for breakfast and got blueberry syrup from stem to stern. Then it was a shower with a desperately-needed hair washing. After that, back outside, with more trike-riding, and then a good nap. I tootled in the garden for a little bit, then girls got up and it was off to the local botanical gardens, where they are nearly finished getting their holiday lights in place.  The fall colors have been truly gorgeous this year, I can only assume because of all the rain. The sunset and full moon were spectacular, too. Now, the girls are asleep right at their bedtimes, tired from hours of play outdoors. AND Dancing the the Stars is on the DVR, just waiting to be watched. Oh, what lovely life I lead.

Quick Garden Update

I've added some new herbs to my garden! Oregano and purple basil, but the chives and catmint that I started from seed have also sprouted! Unfortunately, we've had so little sun for the past two months, that once they sprouted, they barely grew and keeping them alive has been a challenge. We're in for seven days of warm sunshine, though, so I hope they'll be able to grow some more and really get established before we start having frost.

I also started (at last!) my "Lacinato" Kale and "Bright Lights" Chard. I read somewhere that you can just use old egg cartons to start seeds in, so that's what I'm trying! I'm horribly late getting them in (I should have done it back in August/September!) but we really don't get much cold here until December/January, so I think it will be alright for these cold-hardy plants. We'll see, anyway! I had bought some excellent compost from a master gardening at a plant sale, and that's what I've chosen to start them in. I'll update if they sprout!

Also, we've planted some Lamb's Ear in the pot that my oldest daughter painted. It looks so cute! She LOVES its soft texture and silve/green color, and is always wanting to go outside and check on it. I'm glad that it is in a pot, because it is apparently a very hardy, prolific plant (actually, it's a weed) and is known to take over if you're not careful.

Hopefully in the next few days I can get out my camera and actually take some pictures! That would add a lot to these updates, but I just can't seem to think about it until after-the-fact. At least I AM updating my blog!

Things I Love This Week

Wonder Gloves--  What can I say? They're wonderful! These gloves are great for doing housework or gardening. Extremely durable, but also pliable. I especially love these for the garden because they are not nearly as bulky as most gardening gloves that I have tried. I usually prefer to just use my hands, because with ordinary gardening gloves, I can't feel anything. But not so with these Wonder Gloves! No more dirt underneath my fingernails!

Charlie's Soap--  I am in love with Charlie's. This is an all-natural detergent (and it is a detergent, despite the name) that is completely clean-rinsing and fragrance-free. I HATE fragrance on my clothes. But with Charlie's, the clothes come out just smelling clean. And actually, clean clothes smell pretty darn good!  Charlie's Soap doesn't contain any brighteners, but I have found that the clothes are so clean that they don't get "dingy" anyway. One thing you must realize with Charlie's Soap, is that you must add your own disinfectant, or you could run into some problems. There is no need for fabric softener with Charlie's (because there's no harsh residue left on your clothes), so I just add 2 TBSP of vinegar into the softener dispenser, and it gets dispensed during the next-to-last rinse. I like vinegar because Charlie's is alkaline, so the acid in the vinegar brings the clothes down to a nice, neutral pH. Another consideration with Charlie's Soap is that it is coconut-oil based, so if you have coconut allergies, you might have problems. 

Mary Kay Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20--  What took me so long to jump on the tinted moisturizer bandwagon? I'll never know, but I'm glad I'm on it at last. Although thanks to a combo of good genes (from Dad) and a strong skin-care routine since my pre-teen years I have good, clear skin, kids and pregnancy are hard on your complexion. Not mention that I have dark circle under my eyes. My mom used to say, "Did you get enough sleep?" But yes, that's just how my face is. Now, I don't have to think of make-up as a separate issue. Once my moisturizer is on, my skin-tone is even and I don't look like death. Hurray for simplifying my routine!