How to Ask the Right Questions at a Farmers Market

Buying fresh, organic and locally grown is more popular than ever before, and that means farmers’ markets are more in demand and they’re big money makers too. That’s a good thing! Local farmers have an easy way to sell their fresh produce and connect directly with the community and local folks can access locally grown freshly harvested food.

But, is it all that it seems?  How do you know what you are getting is really a “clean food”? Is it really fresh, local, organic, and/or grown without chemicals? Unfortunately, “greenwashing” is more common than you may think, with sellers buying industrial produce at wholesale prices and passing off as homegrown. The other major problem that I find at the local markets is that there is a huge disparity in how each farmer decides to grow their food. Some use no chemicals, some use several chemicals and some use certain soil amendments which can make an otherwise locally grown food more likely to contain heavy metals or toxins. I’ve seen it all far too often, and I now understand that you have to ask the right questions in order to know what you’re really getting.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. 
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. 

Is it organic, locally grown, non-GMO…or other?

By knowing what to ask, you can quickly decipher what’s worth buying and when to simply keep walking. You absolutely cannot trust the look of a stall filled with baskets of produce or the “Support Local” t-shirts worn by staff. They are often banking on your perception of what appears freshly harvested and organic. That said, there are often several vendors doing things right from start to finish and those are the ones you want!

To make things easy for you, I’ve created a list of key questions to ask vendors about their farming philosophies and daily practices. The questions fall into three main categories: Where the food came from, how it was grown, and how it was raised. I’ve divided the subject areas into produce, eggs and cheese since those are the main things people tend to buy at markets. But you can also apply these principals to fresh baked goods, meat and fresh fish too.

Farmer’s Market Guide: How to Approach Vendors

Checking for fraudulent produce at the farmers market is important, but needs to de done correctly for good results.

How can you be sure what you are getting is locally grown? ASK!

How to approach vendors and what to look for:

  1.  Approach the vendor in between customers, and preferably when the stall is empty. Do not barge into a booth with a long line of customers and start rolling off questions. You don’t want to cause panic or ruin someone’s business.
  2. Be polite. Your goal is to get information, not to prove someone wrong. Do not assume the worst and don’t approach a vendor with a negative or accusatory tone. If you are gentle, polite, quietly inquisitive and smile, you’re much more likely to get the answers you need.
  3. Get to the point and ask your questions quickly. Vendors are busy and they’re working! They don’t have time for an hour-long discourse on the subject of organic and sustainable food practices. Just from a few questions, you will know whether you should buy there or not.
  4. Have a quick peek behind the booth and under the tables. If you see new supermarket boxes of produce, you should be suspicious. I’ve seen this at farmer’s markets in Australia where the vendors for sure were selling greenwashed produce (and customers were buying!). I’ve also seen it here in North Carolina.
  5. Know your local seasons for produce. It’s your job to get informed if you want to know your food. Alarm bells should already be ringing if you see strawberries sold in late spring or cucumbers sold in winter, for example.

Fruit & Veggies at Markets: What to Ask

Not all vendors at farmer’s markets are selling certified organic goods, and that’s actually ok (or at least not always a bad thing). Many small farms simply cannot afford to go through the lengthy and expensive process of getting an organic certification. Selling non-certified produce means that you are not allowed to market your goods as “certified organic,” but you are permitted to use terms like “grown without pesticides” or “grown using sustainable permaculture practices.” Don’t be scared of those phrases. Whether it’s certified organic or not, you still need to do more detective work.

It’s all a good practice to ask these questions before signing up for any local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery service.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just remember to be polite and respectful

Questions for Produce Vendors

  1. Where was this grown?
    Hopefully the answer is: at our XYZ farm just down the road. Obviously if the answer is “Mexico” or elsewhere, you’re ready to go to the next stall (unless you’re actually in Mexico, of course!).
  2. Do you use anything for pests or disease?
    A good answer to this is: We let nature run its course and occasionally hand-pick pests like squash vine borers or cabbage worms. Another ok answer is: We use vinegar, water and baking soda to minimize blight. Or: We use traditional companion planting techniques. What you don’t want to hear is a bunch of chemical names that you never heard of. Even certified organic farming allows the use of certain pesticides, however many of those are widely known to destroy local honey bee populations. Not everything organic is better, as you can see.
  3. What type of fertilizer do you use?
    You want to hear something like: We use compost from rabbits fed certified organic feed OR we make our own compost on-site using organic veggie scraps and un-sprayed leaves OR we add XYZ brand of certified organic compost OR we plant cover crops in the fall and practice plant rotation. What you don’t want to hear is: I collect garbage bags of leaves from all over town when it’s time for leaf pick up and I use those. You can imagine that many of those leaves would come from lawns heavily sprayed with chemicals (and yes, I had someone give me that exact answer before!).
  4. Do you add Diatomaceous earth (DE) to the soil?
    To this, you want to hear a clear and definite NO. If the answer is yes, or even yes we add it to the chicken coop and spread chicken manure on the soil, then politely walk away! This stuff is an absolute disaster of a product, sold as a miracle cure to amend soil with nutrients and ward off disease. It’s touted on every online farming forum there is (most likely advocated by industry trolls). While DE may be naturally occurring and is permitted for use in certified organic farming, it is also high in arsenic. Arsenic is a heavy metal; it’s deadly and causes cancer. Plants pull arsenic from the soil through their roots and into the roots, leaves, stem and fruit. This is just one of many reasons why even organic fruits and vegetables are becoming more contaminated with heavy metals than ever before. I’ve personally seen several clients get very sick from taking DE capsules as a “so-called” detox supplement, and they were absolutely not having a detox reaction; rather a toxicity reaction.

A sense of reluctance or hesitation in providing you an answer to any of the above questions should be yet another warning that you may have tapped into something that the vendor does not want to disclose (or doesn’t know, which is also not a good sign).

By asking these questions, I’ve been able to find clean and reliable organic produce vendors, but on average it’s about 2 in 10 that are ok in my book.

Local Eggs at Markets: What to Ask

Questions for Local Egg Vendors

  1. Are these from your chickens, and where is your farm?
    I would hate to think that someone would buy supermarket eggs and try to flog them at a farmer’s market! I’ve never seen this happen myself, however I’m sure there’s always a first. Still, it’s definitely worth it to ask and can be a gentle way to open the conversation.
  2. What kind of feed do you use?
    A good answer to this is: We use only non-GMO organic feed and supplement it with our own organic veggie scraps. If their answer is more vague, such as: We feed them alfalfa, barley, corn and other whole grains, then you must ask: Are they all non-GMO? If the answer is no, then definitely walk away! Genetically Modified (GMO) grains can be high in pesticides such as glyphosate and they can also be high in certain heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead and cadmium. The feed doesn’t necessarily have to be certified organic, but at a minimum it should be non-GMO.
  3. Do you add Diatomaceous earth (DE) to the chicken coop or to the feed?
    Again, you most definitely want the answer to this to be: NO! Many uninformed farmers are adding DE to their coop as a so-called “natural” pest control to kill mites and fleas. However, DE is a known carcinogen when inhaled. Yes, it’s true. Why anyone would ever want to add this junk to anything knowing that is beyond me. However, they are “told” that it’s ok and to just wear a mask when you are applying it. (But don’t worry about eating eggs from chicken with cancer? Ummm….really?) DE is also often added to the feed and it’s totally legal to do this with 100% certified organic eggs. The problem in both cases is that the chickens will ingest the DE. While proponents of DE claim that the arsenic is in its “organic” and therefore not harmful to humans, the reality is that chickens are able to convert organic arsenic into the more dangerous non-organic form of arsenic in their digestive track. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any concentrated forms of arsenic in any of my food!

Often times, you’ll be surprised to find that the non-organic local egg producer is actually selling better quality eggs with less contaminants than the certified organic egg farmer. This is why it’s so important to ask the right questions!

Local Cheese at Markets: What to Ask

Questions for Local or Artisanal Cheese Vendors

  1. Are these from your cows, goats or sheep, and where is your farm?
    Hopefully you’re starting to get the gist of this by now! Some FYI though: it is not uncommon for local cheese producers to buy their milk from a separate dairy farm. Especially if the cheese artisan is making small batches of cheese. So, don’t freak out if you are told – no, we buy the milk from XYZ farm down the road and we make the cheese on-site at our production facility. If you hear that, then go to #2 and continue with your next question. What you definitely do not want to hear is: We buy pasteurized non-organic milk from the supermarket or we buy this cheese in bulk from Costco (as an example) and just package it down for sale.
  2. What kind of feed do you use?
    A good answer to this is: We use only non-GMO certified organic feed OR we use only non-GMO feed. If their answer is more vague, such as: We feed them alfalfa, barley, corn and other whole grains, then you must ask: Are they all non-GMO? If the answer is no, then definitely walk away! GMO grains can be high in pesticides such as glyphosate and they can also be high in certain heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead and cadmium. The feed doesn’t necessarily have to be certified organic, but at a minimum it should be non-GMO. Pretty much same as eggs.
  3. What are the ingredients? (Also, if yellow or orange cheese: How did you get this color?)
    I was absolutely shocked to find SULFITES as an added ingredient in some cheeses in Holland. Especially since The Netherlands is supposed to have the “best” cheese in the world! Sulfites are a chemical preservative that can cause headaches, wheezing, coughing or asthma in people who are sensitive. For the color of the cheese, if it’s yellow or orange in color – you should ask: How did you make the color? I’ve had people tell me that the “natural color” is made from carrots, only to look on the label and see ANNATTO added for coloring. People who are sensitive to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) or glutamates can also get an inflammatory reaction from Annatto. You also want to make sure there is NO garlic salt, garlic powder or onion powder added to any cheese as these ingredients can contain hidden MSG. Basically, the answer you want to hear is some version of: Rennet, milk, salt, fresh organic herbs such as dill or parsley and NO added coloring.

Using the questions above, I’ve identified two very popular local artisanal cheese outlets/vendors in the Asheville NC area selling seasonal cheese made from milk whose cows or goats are fed 100% genetically modified (GMO) feed.

Now, I’m not here to name and shame and I’m definitely not here to put the small local farmer out of business. But, does it bother me that they are selling a small piece of GMO cheese for $14.99 or more? Heck, yeah! Crowds of customers are wooing over their products, and no one has a clue that the stuff is neither organic nor GMO-free. Not to mention that they are supporting GMO dairy farming, which is a total disaster for the local honey bee population and also contaminates local groundwater. Since most people where I live rely on untreated well water for drinking and on honey bees for pollination of their crops, these things become very important very quickly.

Shop Smart and You’ll be Fine!

Hopefully you now feel more secure in knowing the right questions to ask at your local fruit & veggie market. It’s definitely worth your time and effort to ask – after all, you pay good money for farmer’s market items. As long as you have a bit of  a “Buyer Beware” mindset, you can still find good fresh locally grown food that’s healthy and enjoyable for you and your family.

You CAN find GREAT healthy local food at your local markets!

At our local markets here in Western North Carolina, I’m known as the “you asked me that last week” shopper. Oops, sorry! After several passes through my regular markets and asking everyone questions, I now know who I can trust. Over time, it becomes easier because you can go straight to the stalls you know are ok.

Once you get home, you may be wondering: What’s the best way clean my fresh veggies? Not to worry, I’ve got it covered here: How to Clean Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.

Do you have any questions that you like to ask at your local farmer’s market? If so, please share in the comments below. Good luck and happy shopping!


How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!


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Protein Powders containing Mercury, Lead, Arsenic and Cadmium: WARNING!

A new study has revealed that even ORGANIC protein powders can contain high amounts of dangerous heavy metals. The Clean Label Project recently tested 134 of America’s best selling animal-derived and plant-based protein powders for heavy metals, pesticides, BPA/BPS, residual solvents, mycotoxins, melamine and antibiotics residues.

Check below for the WHOLE FOODS I recommend to eat for protein.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only.
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

 

Source: Clean Label Project 2018

 

In the study, many popular and 100% certified organic protein powders showed concerning levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, and toxins like bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastic containers and food can liners and a known endocrine disruptor.

These contaminants have been linked to cancer, brain damage, and reproductive issues.

The 2018 study by the Denver-based Clean Label Project, a nonprofit organization, found that virtually ALL of the 134 products tested contained detectable levels of at least one heavy metal and 55% tested positive for BPA.

MORE heavy metals in Organic Protein Powders vs. Non-Organic

Buying a product with an “organic” label did NOT reduce the chances of getting a contaminated product. In fact, organic protein supplements had higher levels of heavy metals, on average, than nonorganic. How can it be?

 

Source: Clean Label Project 2018

 

“That probably has more to do with these products being plant-based than being organic,” says Sean Callan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and director of operations at the lab that tested the protein products.

Callan further states, “Plant-based proteins may have higher contamination levels because the plants are especially prone to absorbing heavy metals from soil.”

That last sentence may be a shocker, but I believe this is just the beginning of much more to come. I’ve been seeing it more and more and more in recent years. The process of getting certified organic does NOT include testing of the soil for heavy metals. People are switching to plant-based diets and getting sicker than they ever were before, with new ailments ranging from chronic fatigue to knee/joint/back/neck pain to kidney problems to general malaise to peripheral neuropathy and even symptoms of auto-immune disease. Many people blame themselves and their former SAD diet, thinking that they must be having some kind of detox reaction or Herxheimer reaction to eating such a clean diet. However, the new plant-based organic diet may not be as clean as you think. I recently wrote an article called What are the Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity to try to explain this exact problem.

Plant-based Protein Powders HIGHER in heavy metals

Products made from plant-based sources of protein such as soy or hemp fared worse than those made from whey (milk) or egg, containing on average twice as much lead and measurably higher amounts of other contaminants.

 

Source: Clean Label Project 2018

 

Knowing that SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT of plant-based protein powders tested came up positive for lead should be VERY alarming. In addition to lead, several plant powders contained mercury, cadmium and arsenic above health-based guidelines.

The 5 products that received the poorest overall scores in this study were:

  • Garden of Life Organic Shake & Meal Replacement Chocolate Cacao Raw Organic Meal
  • Nature’s Best Isopure Creamy Vanilla Zero Carb
  • Quest Chocolate Milkshake Protein Powder
  • 360Cut Performance Supplements 360PRO Whey Chocolate Silk Premium Whey Protein
  • Vega Sport Plant-Based Vanilla Performance Protein

Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity

To better understand what common symptoms of heavy metals toxicity correspond to each toxic heavy metal, I did some research from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Diseases Registry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Check out the list below showing each health symptom. Can you see how the results from this study on protein powders could be just the tip of the iceberg?

Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity

  • Foggy Brain – arsenic, lead
  • Fatigue (extreme and/or chronic) – arsenic, lead
  • Hair loss – thallium
  • Memory loss – lead, aluminum
  • Chronically bloodshot eyes – arsenic
  • Mee’s lines (deep ridges on fingernails and/or toenails) – arsenic
  • Impaired concentration – thallium, lead, aluminum
  • Impaired motor function, sensory function, and cognitive function – aluminum
  • Increased nervousness – thallium, lead
  • Irritability – thallium, lead
  • Dizziness – lead
  • Depression/mood changes, headache – lead
  • Skin discoloration – darkening (hyper pigmentation) – arsenic
  • Hyperkeratosis (most frequently on the palms and soles) – arsenic
  • Throat irritation / difficultly swallowing / chronic sore throat – arsenic
  • Impaired immune system – lead, arsenic
  • Generalized muscle aches, weakness and body pains – lead
  • Muscle cramps or muscle tenderness – arsenic
  • Numbness, tingling and pain (sensory) – arsenic
  • Spontaneous pain – arsenic
  • Localized edema – arsenic
  • Inflammation or pain in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract – thallium, arsenic
  • Decreased libido – lead, arsenic
  • Decreased sperm count – lead, arsenic
  • Infertility – lead, arsenic
  • Peripheral neuropathy (hot or burning feeling in hands and feet) – arsenic
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – lead
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) – arsenic
  • Hemolytic anemia – lead
  • Nausea or diarrhea – arsenic
  • Low Vitamin D levels (inability to convert Vitamin D) – lead
  • Severe osteoporosis and osteomalacia – cadmium
  • Proteinuria (too much protein in the urine) – arsenic
  • Cardiac Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) – arsenic
  • Skin cancer – arsenic
  • Impaired lung function / fibrosis – aluminum
  • Lung cancer – cadmium, arsenic
  • Kidney (renal) failure – arsenic, cadmium, lead
  • Gout – lead
  • Kidney cancer – arsenic
  • Bladder cancer – arsenic
  • Liver cancer – arsenic
  • Prostate cancer – arsenic

-from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Diseases Registry & the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

 

There is often a combination of deficiency, toxicity and damaged gut microbiome – all of which creates the “perfect storm” of ill health. Read more about this in my article Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity.

What Protein Powders should you use?

Sorry to say, but my answer is: NONE. While this study shows that there are LESS contaminants in whey and egg-based protein powders (due to perhaps the animal being able to absorb or diffuse some of the toxins into their bone, hence why I think bone broth is another disaster), they are NOT coming up clean either. Further, any non-organic animal-based protein powder will have animals that are fed genetically modified feed, thus creating another problem which is pesticide toxicity.

If all of this is not a sign to STOP using protein powders, then I don’t know what is. For years, I’ve repeatedly been recommending to not use protein powders. Extracting protein from whole food, stripping the fiber and creating volatile and unpredictable powders that do not exist in nature is NOT natural or organic. You cannot create protein powders in your home. It needs to be done in a laboratory using extracting chemical solvents – such as hexane – and industrial laboratory equipment. Often times, residual solvents remain in the food product.  And if that wasn’t enough, concentrated and extracted or hydrolyzed proteins are often high in glutamates and can cause reactions in people who are glutamate sensitive.

Animals in nature do not use protein powders and they are not lacking in muscle mass.

If you’re new to all of this information, then you’re head might be spinning and you may think I’m just some kind-of conspiracy theorist. It’s ok to think that! But, I’m not; I’m just a realist. This is the new reality we are facing today. We’ve over-populated the planet with people, trash, chemicals and toxins…and it’s now coming back through the soil, air and water. It’s a closed system and has reached its limits. We’ve over-filled every landfill, contaminated the oceans and damaged too much of the earth. Perhaps it’s karma coming to get us…I don’t know…but I do know this: NOW is the time to grow your own organic food. Getting back to permaculture & organic farming where crops are rotated, soil is replenished and water is clean…while these may seem like ways of the past, they’re the only real solution to a healthy future. Outside of that, I would definitely recommend a regular yearly detox protocol involving liver, kidneys, colon and heavy metal cleansing – at the very least.

What CAN you eat for protein?

Keep in mind that you may not actually need as much protein as you think. The US market for sports nutrition, energy/nutrition bars and sports drinks is set to exceed $20 BILLION by 2020, according to Euromonitor International.

Huge amounts of money are at stake.

There are diets created and promoted by the very industries (think Paleo, Dukan or Keto diet) that would like nothing more than for you to think that the only way to lose weight or increase muscle is to have generous amounts of their protein powder every day. This protein powder study is scaring the bejesus out of the big players in that honey pot. I’m already seeing major damage control happening – denial and downplaying the severity of these findings –  in the comments in forums and on social media (and probably here too).

Back to what you CAN eat…

Good whole food plant sources of protein include chickpeas, black beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, and dark leafy green vegetables.

Examples of plants and their protein:

  • 164g chickpeas = 14.53g protein
  • 118g pumpkin seeds = 35.21g protein
  • 143g almonds = 30.34g protein
  • 140g sunflower seeds = 29.09g protein

How to eat whole food plant proteins?

  • Enjoy delicious homemade seed crackers (and you don’t even need a dehydrator).
  • Make your own hummus and eat a whole bowl of it, especially if you are looking for high protein in one meal.
  • Add homemade tahini dressing to a generous serving of fresh veggie and cooked quinoa (quinoa is a complete protein).
  • Include pumpkin seed cheese into your daily menu as a snack with freshly chopped apples or veggies.
  • Blend a yummy Green Smoothie with added ingredients such as spirulina, sesame seed, tahini, almonds or pumpkin seeds.

Can you imagine a wild pony sitting on a mountaintop saying to a wild horse, “Where do you get your protein? I was feeling a bit tired going up that hill today, and your muscles look way bigger than mine. Whatever powder you are taking, I want it too!”

Of course that sounds ridiculous, because it is. Wild animals don’t need extra protein, but they also don’t ingest refined sugar, bread, fried foods, processed foods, coffee or alcohol either. And if they do, like a domesticated dog for example,  they start to get the same metabolic diseases than humans suffer from.

Our human-created diet has created human diseases.

How much protein more or less is not the answer or the secret key to health. Getting more natural, whole and pure with your food will bring your body health, balance, energy and vitality…and it all comes from natural food.

More information about the Clean Label Project study can be found on their website.

Read more on Why I don’t use protein powders…and why you shouldn’t either!


For more on how to achieve your health goals and actually start feeling great, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a smart phone or digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval for Iridology Analysis.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!


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DIY Indoor Grow Light Stands for under $100

Early spring is the time of year to start working on your summer organic veggie garden. In most climates, the actual growing season isn’t as long as you may like due to late frost in the spring and cool weather in the fall. So, how do you maximize your season to get more veggies growing outside once the warm weather finally hits? The secret to to start your seedling indoors, about 6-8 weeks before you transplant them in the ground.

Grow organic food affordably and easily at home

Starting seedlings indoors is relatively easy once you have a shelf, trays and a grow light. However, you would be amazed how much these systems cost. One 3-tier LED grow light stand will set you back a whopping $699 USD! And that doesn’t include any seeds, drip trays, planting trays or a timer!! A one shelf base unit for a standard stack-n-grow system is $199 USD. It’s insane money if you ask me. I knew I could do it myself way cheaper. And I did! For under $100 USD, I have almost the same setup that would cost you $400 retail. Keep reading, I’m going to show you how you can do it too.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. 
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. 
There are affiliate links in this post. 

It’s easy to start growing indoors, and you can do it on a budget too

Background: Our Organic Veggie Garden

I should explain that my husband and I are complete amateurs in organic gardening. Between us, we have less than zero gardening experience. But, we are both committed to a healthy lifestyle. Our goal in moving to western North Carolina was to grow our own organic food. We’ve been at it for just 2 years now, and this is the first year that we are actually starting seedlings indoors. Why did it take 2 years? Between work, renovating our house, and working on the land, we’ve just been really busy and are still getting our bearings with living in a totally new place to boot.

The first year, my husband built 8 raised beds. Last year, he built another 7 for a total of 15 raised beds for veggies. We also planted fruit trees, raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, grapes, many herbs and lots of pollinating plants for our future bees. Believe me, that was more than enough to keep us busy from morning ’til night. We barely had time to start seedlings outside! That first year, we had beginner’s luck. The spring was mild, so the outdoor seedlings survived.

Last year, however, was a different situation and a few late frosts killed most of our outdoor seedlings. Then, we had to start all over which wasted valuable time. I had to buy a lot of veggie starts to just get things growing, and that was definitely more expensive. I knew that I had to start collecting parts and equipment to make our indoor seedling grow system so that this year, we could finally start our seeds indoors. Hopefully you will learn from a few of our mistakes there and just start your spring seedlings inside!

Get Started: DIY Indoor Grow Light Stands Materials

You’ve got 2 options in sourcing your materials for making your own indoor seedling station:

  1. Buy everything new and assemble yourself, or
  2. Look for sales, bargains and thrift store/yard sale finds to create a budget masterpiece.

If you know me, then you already know what I did. Yep, confessions of a thrift store shopper..But, I managed to find everything I needed, and it wasn’t that hard! I’ll give you both the yard sale list and buy new list so you can combine from both to make what suits you.  Since the end of last summer, I’ve been keeping my eyes out for anything that might be useful and putting it aside. In total, it took me about 6 months to put together my super bargain setup.

Shelves for your indoor seedlings

How many shelves do you need? You can buy the 3-shelf systems with lights already set up. I’ve also seen homemade versions with 3 shelves which seem to work fine. But, if you have any curious cats in your house (like we do), then I would not recommend a 3-tier or even a 2-tier system. Can you hear the whole unit crashing? I can! With one particularly curious rescue cat, aka Captain Sneakypuss, we knew that we needed to have one-shelf units to prevent feline adventure accidents.

The first thing I found at a local thrift store was three separate one-shelf units with wheels, each for only $5. I really wanted shelves with wheels in case I had to move them, so I was beyond excited to find such a good deal! Each shelf measures 24″ long x 20″ high x 15″ wide. At the time, I didn’t even know that these shelves are for hanging file folders. I just thought, wow…I can hang a grow light on the top frame of this and put a seedling tray on the shelf – perfect! These 3 shelves went straight to the attic where they sat all winter. But they planted the seed (pun intended) for my vision of our indoor grow station. It doesn’t really matter what type of shelf you use, but a 24″ long shelf is pretty ideal for hanging a grow light in terms of the light being able to cover the planting area.

You can find a similar shelf to what I bought with the same dimensions for $39.99 on amazon here.

If you’re patient, you can score a good deal. I found 3 of these shelves for $5 each!

Heating Pad for warming seed trays

Certain seeds, like tomato and eggplant, require extra warmth to get started. Most people recommend a grow light AND a heating pad for these. You can buy a fancy seedling heating mat for $40 – $90 USD, depending on the size. Or you can just buy a standard heating pad from CVS. Better yet, check your thrift stores and yard sales. Just make sure that the heating pad has an option for continuous heat, that is, it doesn’t force a automatic shut-off after 1 or 2 hours.

Not all seedlings need heating pads. If you only have 2 shelf units, you probably only need 1 heating pad.

I found a like-new CVS heating pad at Goodwill for $3. Woot woot!

You can find something similar on amazon for under $20 here.

You’ll need a warming or heating pad for tomato and eggplant seedlings

Dual-Outlet Timer

Your heating pad will need to be connected to a timer so you can control the amount of hours of heat applied. You’ll also need a timer for your grow lights (see more on the grow lights below).

I bought a new timer because I wanted a digital one with 2 outlets, and this is not something easy to find used. You’re going to need one outlet for the heating pad and one for the grow light. The beauty of a dual-outlet timer is that you can connect both to one timer with the same on/off program. The model I bought is called the Century 7 Day Heavy Duty Digital Programmable Timer – Dual Outlet (Single Control), available on amazon for $12.99.

There’s an outlet on each side of the timer so you can program 2 things at the same time, like a light and a warming pad

Boot Trays make the perfect drip trays

Even with a brand new 3-tier seedling setup, you won’t get any drip trays. It won’t take long to realize that you need something to catch any water that leaks through your seedling trays. With hardwood floors, I definitely did not want water dripping! Measure the size of your shelves, that way you’ll know if boot trays will work. In my case, they fit perfectly under each shelf and turned out to be the perfect drip trays. I found 2 brand-new boot trays at Goodwill for $2 each, for a total of $4. I had another one at home that I bought at IKEA (and was actually using it as a boot tray). I added the IKEA tray to my setup and had everything I needed to secure any water from my seedling trays.

You can get 2 boot trays for $22 online here. That’s not a bad deal at all! Remember to check the measurements of your shelf to make sure they will fit.

I found these boot trays at Goodwill for 2 bucks each!

LED Grow Light

A grow light is probably the most important part of your indoor setup, because without it, your seedlings are not likely to survive. A window is just not enough light in early spring for seeds to get growing.  They need at least 12 hours per day under grow lights to create the right conditions for sprouting. (And the soil needs to be moist, so don’t forget to check the seedlings twice a day and water accordingly.)

I found an affordable grow light on amazon, and so far it’s working great. I decided to buy one at first and try it, before buying another one for my other shelf. Once I started to see little sprouts pushing out of the soil (yay!), I knew the light was ok so I bought another one. This was the most expensive part of my system, but also the most essential and still very affordable. The one I bought was the Newforshop 30W LED Grow Light for $29.99.

The LED grow light looks like a 70’s dance floor, but it works great and uses less energy

Chains, S Hooks, Zip Ties to attach your light

You’ll also need a few items to help hang your grow light on the shelf. One thing that makes the expensive systems more costly is that they have pully systems to easily move the light up and down as your seedlings grow. But, you can easily move your light up and down manually too. Especially if you want to save a couple hundred bucks. Simple materials like zip ties, S hooks and metal chains are all super useful to hang your grow light at the height you want. Check your grow light for its manufacturer recommendations, but as a general rule, you want to start with your grow light about 6 inches higher than the soil. Having chains makes it easy to adjust the height of your light once your seedlings start to grow.

Last summer, I found a big bag of various chains for $1 at a yard sale, and happily added it to my seedling station materials box. At another yard sale, I bought a jar full of screw and other bits for $1; inside of that were a few metal S hooks. I usually buy my zip ties at the Dollar Store but you can sometimes find those at yard sales too.

You can also buy short pieces of hanging chain with S hooks online here for $5.50.

Honey I bought a bag of chains! Huh? It’s for our seedlings! OH!

Chains and Zip ties or S hooks make it super easy to adjust the height of your light

Shopping List: DIY indoor seedling Grow Light Stand

It’s easy to start growing indoors, and you can do it on a budget too

Organic good grown at home is the ultimate in health

Cost – Buying New vs. Used

Buying all new materials, you can create ONE grow light shelf unit for $129.01 or TWO shelf units for $198.99.

Even if you buy everything NEW, you can get TWO grow light shelf units for the price of one ($199) at a comparable online garden supply store. That’s 50% less!!

Buying some used materials (like I did), you can create ONE shelf unit for $54.98 or TWO shelf units for $91.97.

Either way, you save money! Simply by starting your own plants from seed, you can save hundreds of dollars EVERY YEAR from not having to buy starter plants. (1 organic start plant costs $4-6, whereas 1 packet of 100 organic seeds costs $3 or $0.03 per plant.) Your investment in starting from seed will quickly pay off after only one season!

Additional Stuff you’ll need

Once you get your grow light shelves set up, you’ll need a few more things to actually start your seedlings:

  • Starter soil (I recommend 3 parts Peat Moss to 1/2 part Perlite 10 1/2 part Vermiculite)
  • Planting trays (I got mine for free on Craigslist; also check gardening stores at the end of the season for freebies)
  • Spray bottle for watering
  • Popsicle sticks for labeling your trays (I scored a huge bag at a yard sale for 50c)
  • And of course….some quality non-GMO organic seeds (I recommend Sow True Seed brand)
  • Fertilizer (use this once the seedlings are growing so they don’t stall in growth)

Have any personal tips on starting seeds indoors to share? Please leave a comment below!

Organic gardening for health, joy and happiness

For more on how to achieve your health goals and actually start feeling great, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

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Gut-Brain Axis: Probiotics are the Missing Link to Depression

Science has finally caught up to what many of us have been trying to say for years: How you feel comes from your GUT. Restoring gut health must be part of your mental wellness program. If you or someone who know is suffering from depression, there is HOPE. And it could be a lot easier to overcome than you think.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only.
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

The information below is from the book This is your Brain on Parasites by Kathleen McAuliffe:

“In the gut, resident microbes take a share of every meal you eat, but in return they aid in digestion, synthesizing vitamins and disarming dangerous bacteria that you ingest. They also churn out virtually every major neurotransmitter that tunes our emotions – notably GAMA, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and noradrenaline – as well as hormones with psychoactive properties.

“To varying degrees, scientists now suspect, intestinal microbes influence whether you’re happy or sad, anxious or calm, energetic or sluggish, and, by signaling the brain when you’ve had enough to eat, perhaps even whether you’re fat or thin.

The Gut-Brain Axis is real

“Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how gut bacteria get messages delivered to the distant output of the head, but they have a few ideas.

“Some psychoactive compounds made by gut bacteria, they believe, are detected by the enteric nervous system – a think skein of neurons that runs the entire length of the gut. This network has more neurons than the spinal cord – hence its nickname, “the second brain’ – and it connects to the big brain upstairs via the vagus nerve, a major route by which gut bacteria make their voices heard. Indeed, 90 percent of information transmitted by this cable goes from the viscera to the brain, not the other way around, as science for many years had assumed.

It’s not “in your head”…it’s in your GUT

“Intestinal bacteria may engage the immune system, which can lower our mood and energy level, yet another pathway by which our microbiota might change our behavior. Perhaps related to that observation, depressed people tend to have abnormally high amounts of certain gut bacteria, and they are more likely to have elevated biomarkers for inflammation – an immune-mediated response.

“Intriguingly, certain gastro-intestinal (GI) disturbances – notable ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – are marked by disruptions of the gut microbiome, and these illnesses are associated with an unusually high incidence of mental disturbance in comparison to serious diseases that afflict other parts of the body. Indeed, 50 to 80 percent of those who suffer from these conditions are clinically depressed.

“More surprising, specific abnormalities in the composition of the human microbiota have been linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – a condition characterized by increased anxiety, depression, and impaired social ability.

Could probiotics help millions of people who are debilitated by serious mood disorders?

“Clinical trials are now underway to test probiotics on people whose primary problem is anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. The results are not in yet, but studies of groups whose mental woes may originate in GI troubles offer encouragement. In one study of thirty-seven patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders (an umbrella term for irritable bowel syndrome and other common gastric complaints that can’t be tied to an underlying abnormality), for example, probiotic treatment not only improved their symptoms but also brought about a significant reduction in their depression and anxiety based on both self-reporting and measurements of stress markers in their saliva and urine. The outcome was impressive given that all of the subjects had previously been treated – without success – at multiple medical centers.

“A sprinkling of clinical investigations also suggest that probiotic remedies can soothe colicky babies, a condition that torments 20% of newborns along with their frazzled, sleep-deprived parents. In one trial, the approach reduced crying and fussing by 70 percent.

“Gathering evidence hints that supplements of healthy bacteria may help to buffer already high-functioning people against everyday stress and strains. For example, a randomized, double-blind trial in France on fifty-five people with no history of psychological disturbances found that regular consumption of a probiotic reduced blood levels of stress hormones and subjects’ ratings of their depression, anxiety, and ability to cope – improvements not seen in the control group.”

Probiotics can’t hurt and may help, so why NOT try?

With no harmful side effects, no damage to the hormonal system, metabolism or liver, no additive properties and no need for other supporting prescription medications, I cannot see any logical reason why NOT to take a daily probiotic. At the very least, you can add a probiotic to your daily regimen, even if you and your doctor decide to keep you on anti-depressants. With nothing to lose and so much to potentially gain, it’s a no-brainer (or an all-gutter!).

Even if you don’t suffer from clinical anxiety or depression, studies are showing that you can feel better too. Everyday stress can actually be reduced, just from taking good gut bacteria!

What type of probiotic to take

I recommend several types of probiotic. Taken together, they increase the chance of rebalancing the microbiome in the gut. Remember, it’s not just one type of good bacteria that you need. There are as many as a thousand different strains of good bacteria in a healthy gut.

Recommended probiotic daily schedule:

  • Morning – Take 1 Jarrow brand acidophilus capsule with or after breakfast
  • Lunch – Take 1 Garden of Life HSO probiotic tablet with or after lunch
  • At night before bed – Take 1 Udo bifidus capsule at night before bed

(Note: while traveling, it’s best to take only the Jarrow brand 3x daily because it’s easy to travel with, can be transported without refrigeration and it’s more convenient to have only one brand to carry. At home, increase your variety of bacterial strains in the gut by rotating between 3 different brands each day.)


For more on how to achieve your health goals and actually start feeling great, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a smart phone or digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval for Iridology Analysis.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!


More on Gut Health:

More on Motivation:

Why I worked on an organic cattle farm

Yes, it’s true! I worked on an organic cattle farm for 6 weeks while living in Australia several years ago. You may think, “Traitor!”…but of course, no peace-loving health enthusiast would ever think that!  Why did I do it? I’d never worked on a cattle farm before and was open to see what it’s all about. The family who hired me had actually never met a vegetarian in their entire lives. What a union! I went into the experience with an open mind, and an open heart.

A vegetarian meets a cattle ranch family…will it work?

I took the job at the cattle station not long after working and living on Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef for a year and a half. I was coming out of the isolation of island living and driving around oz, happily visiting friends along the way. One of my friends was working in Alice Springs at the time, so I drove to see her. During my visit, she said, “Jennifer, why don’t you stay awhile and look for work? There’s plenty of work ’round here. Plus, when are you ever going to be back?” (Never, I thought!) But, it seemed like a good idea to stay and get to know more of what the strange, desolate, dry, red landscape had to offer. The next day, I checked the local job board and there was a sign for domestic help on an organic cattle farm. Well, I liked the word “organic” anyway! Why not call them and give it a try? I had nothing to lose.

Outback scenery…the road to Alice Springs

Living in the real outback of Australia is not easy. The husband of the family drove 4 hours one-way to come and pick me up in Alice Springs. We drove back to the farm together, getting to know each other along the way. The pickup truck had a big spider crack in the windshield and I remember spending a lot of time wondering how he could even see the road. Never mind that the car was covered in so many layers of dust that you could no longer see the color of the car! On the dashboard were several shotgun shells. They rolled back and forth with every turn that the car took. Admittedly, I wondered what I was getting into. The husband seemed tough, with thick skin tanned from the desert sun and just as many layers of dirt on him as the car. Yet, he seemed genuine and funny too. Not long after the initial small talk, we started talking about nutrition and health. He proudly told me, “I reckon I get the 4 food groups every morning: coffee, milk, sugar and water.” Ok!

The road to their farm was straight and long. Like hundreds of kilometers long. And nothing but desert for as far as you can see. Finally, we got to a dirt road that was another 200km until we got to their driveway. Then, the driveway was 35km long! And not an easy drive because you had to stop every so often at a cattle gate and get out to open the gate. Mind you, I had just come from living on a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef, and I thought that was remote. This was beyond anything I had ever seen!!

The family that I worked for had 2 children: one was still at home and learning online via School of the Air, a fascinating program that’s been in place way before the internet (and originally by radio) for outback families. Their other child was already in boarding school back in Alice Springs. The farm was originally owned by the husband’s family. He inherited it after his father passed away. His wife ran the house and prepared meals for everyone, including the family, me and the other cattle hands. Every night, we all ate together at one big table, unless the guys were out somewhere on the farm mustering cattle.

Fair dinkum outback cowboys

The staff (3 of us) stayed in an old house on the property. It was run down, full of dust and smelled bad. Nothing to write home about. The best aspect of the job is that food and accommodation were included, so you could bank all of your money while you were there and come out with some nice savings. After all, what could you possibly spend your money on out there?! Literally nothing. The other 2 guys were nice guys. One was an experienced mustering pilot who worked side by side with the father each day. The other guy was an Irish backpacker who was a butcher back home in Ireland. They hired him to work with the mustering and also to cut up a cow for their freezer (more on that later). They never seemed to remember his name and just called him “Backpacker” all the time. My job was to spring clean the main house, section by section, room by room, from top to bottom.

In the evenings I would walk on the property…but you don’t want to get any closer than this. The cattle can turn and charge at any moment

I left the farm only once during my stay. The wife needed to stock up on some food essentials, so we went to the “local” store instead of driving all the way into Alice Springs. The local store was still a one hour drive away! It was in an Aboriginal village and catered mostly to them. You could immediately understand why obesity and diabetes have become such big problems in the Aboriginal communities. The store was full of candies, sweets and sugary sodas with just a few old wilted vegetables on a back shelf.

One thing I didn’t mention yet is what we ate. Thankfully, there were plenty of veggies for me to eat as well as bread and pasta (This was before I switched my own diet to a healthier version, but I was still a vegetarian). There was no snack food at all and I didn’t bring any snacks. It was a prison diet, in a sense. You just got your plate of food 3x a day and that was it. For the rest of the crew, they had tons of meat, at every meal. I’d never seen people eat red meat with breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. They had one entire freezer full of meat. In fact, while I was there, they started running low so they had Backpacker chop up a “kill.” It took him 2 days and seemed like a LOT of work. I also didn’t mention the flies. You can’t be in the outback without flies. Especially during those 2 days, there were tons of flies.

One thing that happened without fail at every meal – I was always asked if I had enough to eat. You see, this family had never eaten with a vegetarian before, so it was hard for them to believe that I could feel satisfied without meat. I found it pretty funny. If I was tired on any day, they would always say, “Do you want some meat?” Of course, the answer was always, “No thank you”!

The highlight of my experience was getting to spend a night in the outback with the boys while they were out mustering. I drove with them during the day in their “Mad Max” style jeeps on the ground, while the father and pilot flew from above in gyrocopters. We made a campfire at night, put the billy on the fire and slept on cots out in the open air, straight from an outback movie scene.

Mustering cattle is a lot harder than it looks!

In the end, was it a great experience and a good cultural exchange. Why not let a cattle ranch family live with a vegetarian and vice versa? How will we ever understand each other if we don’t foster positive friendships? I respect the family for their hard work, dedication to the land and desire to raise cattle who eat real grass and are not confined to a mega factory farm. I now have much more of a real understanding of what happens in an organic cattle farm than I ever did before. If people do eat meat, it should be organic meat…and ideally, that would be the only option. Our land can sustain it (although dairy farming is another issue), and there is no overuse of antibiotics, GMO feed or growth hormones as a result.

Aussie outback: where the earth and sky meet

Some may think that I should have boycotted such a place and never accepted the job. I myself ate meat, including pork, chicken and beef, as a child. Should I be burned at the stake because I ate meat until the age of 21 years old? What makes me better or worse than someone who eats meat now? I originally become a vegetarian for environmental reasons. After 15 years or so, my focus shifted more on health reasons. This year will be my 26th year of having not eaten meat.

An interesting note to all of this is that the husband’s father passed away from colon cancer, in his 50’s. It’s a very sad ending for someone who loved the land so much. And does make one wonder – did eating so much meat, even organic meat, contribute to his ill health?

The one thing I do know is this: acceptance, forgiveness and love are the keys to bridging the gaps that divide us. Whether vegan, vegetarian, breatharian or other…we are all human.

More Travel Tales:

Does the Squatty Potty Really work?

If you’ve never heard of a Squatty Potty, then you are definitely not up-to-date with the latest trend in bathroom accessories (and yes, there are bathroom trends!). This simple yet practical toilet stool has taken the digestively-challenged world by storm, literally! Times have certainly changed since I started working in the field of detox nearly 20 years ago. Back then, I couldn’t talk about poo without everyone running as fast and as far away as they could. Now, I can write and share a full article about something that is helping people have better bowel movements! In this blog post, I’m going to share my results in using the Squatty Potty at home. Does it really work, or it is just hype?

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review and experience with the product.
All thoughts and opinion expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the developing company and/or its affiliates, in any way.

The Squatty Potty 2.0 model fully extended to the 9 inch position

Why I wanted to try the Squatty Potty

Admittedly, my husband wasn’t so thrilled to be part of this experiment, but in reality he was the one who needed help in the a-hem..toilet department. Having suffered with constipation his entire life, he understands more than anyone how frustrating it is when you don’t “go” every day. When I first met him, he was literally amazed that I could be in and out of the bathroom in less than 3 minutes, for a Number 2! Often, he would sit on that porcelain throne for 30 minutes or more, praying to the heavens above for any miracle cure. Many times, we would have to wait all morning before going out because he still “had to go.” In some cases, he wouldn’t have any bowel movement for 3 or 4 days at a time. I was in shock! When he first told me this, I immediately scheduled a colonic for him. And can you believe – he actually went through with it? His first colonic ever (but not his last!) Now… that’s true love!

Fast forward several years and many detoxes later, and things has vastly improved for my husband’s gut health. If he eats well with green smoothies, fresh fruit, a daily probiotic and plenty of water throughout the day, he generally does exceptionally well and is actually quite regular these days. But, if any of that gets off track, his colon will be the first to let him know. It’s awful to see someone you care about not be able to go to the toilet and really feel miserable as a result. Naturally, I kept thinking – what else can I do to help him improve this situation? Having heard of Squatty Potty and having used many squat toilets myself over the years while living in SE Asia, I thought that using a stool and changing the position of his sitting could help. The only way to know for sure was to give it a try!

We received our new Squatty Potties by mail in an unmarked box with no exterior labels, which was reassuring since I can imagine that some people would prefer complete privacy with this type of purchase. My first impression was that the company has done really well to put a fun and cute spin on a topic that was formerly more on the taboo side and for many still is not so easy to discuss. Even I was accused of giving #TMI when I texted a good friend to tell her we just received our Squatty Potty! Anyway, the packaging and branding of Squatty Potty is great. The stools were wrapped in turquoise blue tissue paper, with a paper unicorn crown (for the new King of Poop) and a button that proudly states “I Pooped Today.” Classic! All of this made me even more excited to give the Squatty Potty a try.

Squatty Potty: What is it and who needs one?

A Squatty Potty is a modern-day version of the squat toilet, brought to you with all the comfort of your Western-style porcelain throne.  The Squatty Potty is a step stool designed to fit easily around the base of your toilet seat. It works like this: Sit on your toilet as you normally would, gently lift your legs, rest your feet on the stool and let the bowel movement begin. By lifting your legs slightly, the transverse colon gently rises thus preventing any “kinks” in the colon and allowing the pipes to flow, so to speak.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. 
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. 

Squatty Potty Slim Driftwood Teak Model in 7 inch height

If you have a history of constipation, inflammation in the colon, or a feeling of not fully evacuating then the Squatty Potty is worth a try. In terms of how many people could actually benefit from something like this, just look at the statistics. Approximately 70 MILLION Americans have digestive disorders, prompting in nearly 60 MILLION visits to doctors’ offices and hospitals each year.

Clearly, what goes in doesn’t always come out.

Low stomach enzymes, an unhealthy “microbiome” or bacterial balance in the gut, an over acid environment, toxicity, and/or inflammation are warning signs that the body is not eliminating well. (Remember, any bowel disease ending with the word “itis” is a disease on inflammation, like ulcerative colitis, gastritis and diverticulitis.) What’s worse is that more health problems can arise from all this internal stress. As Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” I agree!

Our results: Using a Squatty Potty

In theory, I knew that the Squatty Potty should work. But still, I wondered – could a toilet stool really mimic the true Asian squat and offer improved evacuation? The answer is: YES! I am actually impressed at how well it works!

On the day the Squatty Potty arrived, my husband tried the 2.0 model set at the standard 7″ height. Within 10 minutes, he was out of the bathroom (that alone is amazing!). Without getting too graphic, he said, “More just kept coming out! Every time I thought I was done, there was more!” Well, that never happens. Usually it’s the opposite and more in lines of, “I kept pushing and nothing came out” OR “I pushed and pushed and only got a rabbit turd.” If you’ve been in that situation, I am sure you can relate.

I can only guess that my husband has some prolapse of the colon, which can definitely keep the large intestine in a more kinked position. Changing the position of the colon created an immediate positive effect. Every time he uses the Squatty Potty, he has a release and it’s always more than he thought he was going to have. That’s simply amazing!

For me, the results were also good. In my case, I am very regular and have a large bowel movement every morning. Could the Squatty Potty help someone like me, who doesn’t have any digestive problems and goes to the loo every day? Yes! When I’ve used the Squatty Potty, I have my normal release, and then I have another almost full poo immediately after. Almost like two poo’s at once. Definitely I feel improved evacuation and I feel flatter in my stomach after. I can only surmise that more is getting through even my clean and healthy pipes, just from the change in position of the colon.

Asian Squat Toilet vs. Western Sit Toilet – What’s the poop?

An Asian squat toilet is a simple style of toilet design that consists of a hole in the floor and 2 porcelain treads for your feet on either side. You stand in position, squat and then go. This design is used in many parts of the world but is mostly found in Asia, hence the name “Asian-style” toilet.

Who would want to squat like a dog to go to the toilet?! Well, imagine the days before real toilets existed. What would have been the easiest and most natural position to a-hem..fertilize a tree? There’s no way you would stand and bend at the knees (muscles shaking) as if sitting on the loo. Naturally, you would squat in a low position, close to the ground. Squatting is easier on the joints and less tiring on the muscles, but more importantly it puts the transverse colon in the correct position and lifts any prolapse in the colon. Kinks in the colon are lifted naturally, especially where the ascending and descending colon turn. All of this allows you to “go” quickly and easily, standing up after to check for any predators and be on your way.

The first man-made toilets copied the style of squatting and in many parts of the world, squat toilets were the norm. This made perfect sense until more modern day folks decided that sitting was the preferred position of defecating.  That’s when the Western toilet arrived, and along with the Western diet (refined sugar, wheat and dairy), came many new digestive ailments.

I used many squat toilets over the course of several years while living in SE Asia. In my experience, public squat toilets are way cleaner than public Western toilets. It’s a relief to not have to sit on a dirty seat splashed with who-knows-what. Using a squat toilet also helps strengthen your leg muscles and gives the body a good stretch. It just feels more natural. I also think that I had more volume evacuated whenever using a squat toilet.

Is it better to squat on the toilet? That’s kind-of a trick question because believe it or not, a lot of Asians who have never used a Western toilet will actually stand on the seat of a Western toilet and squat!

Is a squat toilet better? In my opinion, yes. I wish we had the option to build an Asian style toilet in our home here in the United States – I would definitely do that!

What Squatty Potty model is best?

I had a hard time deciding which Squatty Potty model to try. I didn’t really like the medical look of the traditional Squatty potty. I just recently painted one of our bathrooms and I wanted to maintain a sleek, modern style there.

Also, my husband is 6’8″ tall and weighs 220 pounds. I was worried that the slim teak style might actually break from his weight.  At the same time, I didn’t know which height would work best for him. I read a few reviews from tall people who said that the 9″ was too high for them, and their knees were in their face. I was leaning towards the new 2.0 model which allows for 2 positions and adjusts between 7″ and 9″ heights.  But, I didn’t like the medical-looking style. So, what to do?!

In the end, I chose the Squatty Potty 2.0 for one bathroom and the slim teak model for the other one. We’ve been very happy with both. Initially, my husband was happy using the 2.0 at the 7″ height. After 2 weeks, he decided that he wanted to adjust it up to 9 inches. Starting at 9″ probably would have been too uncomfortable for him, and may have discouraged him from trying. Definitely, having the flexibility to change the height is really nice. The driftwood teak slim design in the other bathroom satisfies my desire to have a nicer look. I tend to use that bathroom more than my husband, and the 7″ height of that stool feels more comfortable for me. The slim stool is sturdy in design, even with the weight of a 220-pound man.

I also LOVE the idea of the Porta-Squatty, which folds up easily for travel. Since traveling is always more challenging for my hubby in terms of staying regular, I could see where this could really come in handy.

In the case of optimizing one’s poo, position does matter!

How to Improve Gut Health

In addition to getting the squat position right, there are other natural remedies that also help to keep things “moving”.

To improve gut health, you can:

  1. Increase fiber. Add 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed to a green smoothie daily
  2. Take a daily probiotic, one at night before bed.
  3. Don’t overeat. Set regular mealtimes.
  4. Add fermented foods to your diet.
  5. Detox and/or colon cleanse once a year (at a minimum).

Finally…don’t forget to Listen to your Gut! Your body is giving you signals when things aren’t right. Stay in tune with how you feel. Heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, gas, pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain are all signs of imbalance. Pay attention when things aren’t working. The faster you make changes, the sooner you can feel better.

Read more on natural health and healing here:

What your Poop and Pee can tell you about Your Health

How to Do a Castor Oil Pack for Liver Cleansing

How to Do Onion Socks for Healing


For more on how to do a detox at home or how to navigate through your detox symptoms and start feeling great, book a personalized health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Consultation:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a smart phone or digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!


More on Skin Cleansing:

More on Liver Cleansing:

Feng Shui Your Home for Better Sleep and Good Relationships

The concept of clearing clutter, minimization or tidying up for success is nothing new. Feng Shui is an ancient practice of keeping order in one’s life and enjoying good energy flow as a result. Find out how you can adopt a few Feng Shui techniques, practice minimalism and see how your life can actually improve as a result. It’s pretty amazing stuff, especially because it works!

Feng Shui Your Bedroom for Better Sleep

The importance of Feng Shui in the bedroom is second to none in terms of getting a restful sleep.

To start, correct placement of mirrors is essential. Don’t place any mirrors behind, next to or even above the bed. This will drain your energy all night long, and leave you feeling depleted with lack of focus in the morning. Do place mirrors behind a door or in the closet/dressing area for good Feng Shui.

Next, check your sheets, pillows, blankets and comforters. For the best Feng Shui in the bedroom, all linens should be either white or skin tone in color; that is, any shade of tan or brown. Choose plain fabrics with minimalistic designs and avoid loud patterns. You don’t want bright colors or mismatching patterns, all of which create energetic “noise.”  I recommend to use only a high quality (300 count or more) 100% cotton sheets and avoid polyester blends. When you get into bed, it should feel like the most comfortable place on earth.

Take time every morning to make your bed consciously, with attention and intention to take care of your sleeping space. The worse thing you can do is throw pillows haphazardly, unconsciously or while filled with stressful thoughts. You will only keep that energy there waiting for you when you get back at night!

If you suffer from insomnia, turn on an essential oil diffuser with organic lavender oil in the bedroom for about an hour each night. Either use a timer function or turn it off manually before going to bed.

The bedroom decor should be simple and zen-like. Use warm woods and avoid too much metal or sharp-edged furniture. Don’t allow clutter in the bedroom, especially if your mind tends to race and wander before falling asleep. (You may need to detox your bedroom, which is not a bad thing!)

Minimize electronics in the bedroom, especially ones that are right next to the bed. Placing a large amethyst crystal cluster in the bedroom can help to relax the mind and promote a deeper, more restful sleep.

Top Feng Shui Tips for Your Bedroom:

  • No mirrors behind, above or on the side of the bed
  • Linens and sheets in white or skin tone colors
  • Simple decor with minimal clutter
  • No electronics next to the bed
  • Amethyst crystal cluster to relax the mind

A simple and clean bedroom has the perfect energy for a good night’s sleep

Feng Shui Your Home for a Good Relationship

Perhaps you never thought about what type of energy you have in your home for harboring good relationships, but in terms of Feng Shui, it’s very important! If you are single, there are things you can do to attract a partner in your life. And if you have a partner and you want to continue in a successful union, there are some Feng Shui decorating points that can actually help keep a loving relationship.

To find a partner, don’t worry about how to meet them. Instead, get your Feng Shui in order…and the universe will bring that person to you! Good Feng Shui for love starts with the images in your home. What you want is art, posters or paintings or 2 animals in nature, such as 2 elephants walking, 2 fish swimming or 2 birds flying. The worst Feng Shui is to have a single woman sitting alone on a beach, or a single animal alone in a painting. If you want to stay single, that’s ok! But otherwise, get rid of it.

To keep a partner, bring in the powerful symbol in Feng Shui for love and marriage, sometimes called the “double happiness” symbol. This is a symbol you can hang in your bedroom, and for the best Feng Shui, you want this symbol in the southwest (SW) corner of the room.

For good relationship Feng Shui, you want to have a bedside table and a lamp on both sides of the bed, with easy access to both sides of the bed. The worst Feng Shui that will keep you in forever singledom is when you have one side of the bed directly against wall with only one side of the bed accessible for entry and exit. The bedroom should be clear of clutter and simple in design to keep drama and discord out of the relationship.

Top Feng Shui Tips for a Good Relationship:

  • Artwork showing animals in pairs
  • Bedside tables on both sides of the bed
  • Double Happiness symbol in the SW corner

Feng Shui Your Office for Creativity & Concentration

The energy in your office should ideally help to strengthen your ability to focus, complete tasks and maximize productivity. In terms of Feng Shui, your office should always be neat and orderly. A chaotic or untidy space leads to monkey mind and scattered thoughts. Keep your desk free of clutter, and only have essential items on display. Simplicity is best.

Add a nice green plant, and keep wood or bamboo elements in your office space for good Feng Shui.

Finally, locate the southeast (SE) area of your office, otherwise known as the Wealth and Money corner. In that area, you can add a gold dragon, a three-legged frog, an image of a bat, a gold elephant, or a turtle, all considered to be powerful Feng Shui elements for abundance and success.

Top Feng Shui Tips for Your Office:

  • Neat and tidy work space, clear of clutter
  • Green plant or bamboo
  • Lucky talismans in the Wealth and Money Corner

Feng Shui Tips to Create a Peaceful Retreat at Home

The energy in your home starts from the moment you walk in the door, and that’s where a lot of important Feng Shui happens.

Don’t put a mirror directly in front of the entrance, and don’t have a bathroom directly in front of the entrance – both of these are definitely bad for Feng Shui. A mirror in front of the door sends all the good energy out of the home. You can have a mirror next to the door or in a hallway, but not facing the entrance door.

Do invite clean energy into your home by placing a clear quartz cluster in the entranceway. A quartz cluster is used to clean an energy space, with all the crystal points sending good energy in all different directions. This helps to leave worries and stress at the door, not allowing it to enter the home.

Do protect yourself and your home from bad energy by hanging or placing talismans in your entryway. A Buddha statue should be facing the door and set on a table against a flat wall. Never place a Buddha statue in a corner and never place a Buddha directly on the floor. For obvious reasons, you don’t want to ever put a Buddha statue in a bathroom either.  Other talismans for good energetic protection include a Hamsa, the blue Evil Eye or a Quan Yin statue.

Top Feng Shui Tips for a Peaceful Home:

  • No mirror facing the entrance door
  • Clear quartz cluster in the entry to invite clean energy
  • Buddha statue or Hamsa for protection

Buddha statues, Himalayan salt lamps, crystals and Quan Yin in the entryway for good Feng Shui

What is Feng Shui

Feng shui is a centuries-old practice that incorporates the arrangement of items around you with energy flow. When you practice the system of Feng Shui, it is believed to bring more “good chi,” including better health, good relationships and success. Feng shui can unlock you from a rut and jump start your motivation again, simply by improving the energy flow around you. It can improve your spiritual health and well-being. What awaits you is a life filled with harmony and comfort—and it’s literally at your doorstep.

More on Spiritual Health:

Healthy Gift Ideas for the Holidays

I want to share with you some great gift ideas for your healthy friend, family member or loved one this holiday season. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to shop for health-oriented people like “us,” since we may have unusual or unconventional ideas of what we like. But don’t be afraid to read more! You don’t have to buy me an enema bag and organic coffee to make me happy, and I’m sure many other people will agree!

Check out the list below and maybe you will find the perfect gift for that special someone, even if they are a vegetarian or vegan, yogi tree-hugging minimalist living in a yurt or a tiny house.

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. I may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.  

Healthy Gift Ideas under $20

Need a small stocking stuffer for an office holiday party, secret Santa or just on a tight budget? Here are some nice, meaningful and extremely useful gifts for anyone interested in health and wellness:

  1.  Castor Oil Kit – This is especially great for liver/gallbladder cleansing and also useful in healing muscle or sports injuries. The kit contains castor oil, a wool cloth (note: wool may not be a suitable gift for all vegans) and cleaning wipes. Add in a heating pad for a complete ready-to-use at-home liver and gallbladder cleanse.
  2. Buddha Quote Poster – “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.” A beautiful quote and perfect poster for a sauna or meditation room.
  3. Green Smoothies for Dummies book – Plugging my own book here, but actually this is a great recipe book and an excellent resource for anyone who wants to start the new year right. One smoothie green per day is an fantastic New Year’s Resolution and can help anyone, no matter what your health goal.
  4. Himalayan Salt Lamp – These lamps provide a warm, natural glow. When heated, the lamp emits negative ions into the air; those are the clean “healthy” molecules of air that you get from the forest or the sea. This lamp is perfect for a meditation room or even at the desk of someone who works long hours at the office.
  5. Tibetan Meditation Singing Bowl – A beautiful gift for a enchanting chime to start and end a meditation practice. The sound is helpful for de-stressing, detoxing and releasing negative thoughts.

Other good stocking stuffers include: bamboo or charcoal toothbrushes, peppermint oil breath beadlets, a rose quartz heart stone, a zenergy chime and a feng shui crystal ball.

Healthy Gift Ideas under $50

  1. Osho Zen Tarot Cards – Do you know someone going through a lot of change and transition in their life right now? They may like the magical zen tarot set from Osho, complete with a book to explain each card.
  2. Bamboo wood digital LED clock – Adds a serene, minimalist feeling to any home, whether tiny or not!
  3. Squatty Potty – Ok, I know this one is close to the whole enema thing and may only be an appropriate gift for close family or friends…but seriously, if you someone you love is suffering from constipation, this could be the best gift they ever receive. With 60 to 70 million people affected by all digestive diseases, I would say there is a pretty good chance that someone you know needs a Squatty Potty!
  4. Amethyst Quartz Crystal Cluster – Amethyst helps promote relaxation and is known to help slow down the “monkey mind.” It’s especially helpful to have amethyst in the bedroom if you have trouble sleeping at night.
  5. Meditation Floor Chair with back support – If someone you love is working on their vision board and/or meditation room, then this is the perfect gift for them! These floor chairs make meditating SO much more comfortable, easy and enjoyable!

Healthy Gift Ideas under $100

  1. Create the perfect bath gift basket with a dry skin brush, Epsom salts, French almond soap, organic lavender oil, a lavender eye mask, castor oil and a hair towel, an aromatherapy candle, and a foot pumice stone. Does that sounds like a healing detox bath or what?! Find all of the items for your healing basket here.
  2. Organic cotton sheet set – splurge on a loved one with something they will use (and thank you for) every single day. Nothing is softer on the skin than organic cotton. If someone you love has trouble sleeping at night, this is a wonderful gift. (You can also help them feng shui their bedroom for more restful and peaceful sleep.)
  3. Rebounder or Mini-Trampoline – Great exercise for the circulatory system, including the lymphatic system. Just 5-10 minutes per day is all you need. Especially good for anyone with circulatory weakness or lymphatic-related conditions. This is also an excellent yet gentle for of detoxification for the body.

Healthy Gift Ideas under $300

  1. Chi machine – This machine helps stimulate and cleanse the lymphatic system, simply with the gentle back and forth movement it creates. It helps you feel more relaxed and energized at the same time. The machine is great for someone with limited movement due to illness, chemotherapy, or fatigue. It’s highly recommended for fibromyalgia and Multiple sclerosis (MS).
  2. Quartz Crystal Singing Bowl – This is truly a treat for the mind, body and soul! Anyone who is into meditation, zen gardens and/or energy healing will appreciate this gift to add to their home or office.
  3. Noise cancellation headphones – These are actually great for travel on airplanes, buses and trains when you want to listen to your audio book, meditation guide or affirmation CD without any distraction. Also highly recommended for people with anxiety, combined with an app for sleep music…with sounds of the forest, rain or sea..good for calming the nerves and relaxing the mind.

Healthy Gift Ideas over $1000

  1. Far Infrared Sauna – A daily sauna can help with detoxification, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, healing after chemotherapy, autism, chronic migraines and insomnia. It’s non-invasive and does not require any change of diet. This is a gift that can keep on giving for many years to come. 40-60 minutes per day is ideal.
  2. Amethyst BioMat – Once you try the biomat, you never go back! Nothing better for a total energy recharge and release of negative thoughts, stress and tension. The biomat is especially good for chronic pain, insomnia, chronic headaches, cancer, auto-immune diseases and depression.
  3. Organic bamboo charcoal pillow-top mattress – Ahhh, just the thought of this is making me sleepy! Really though, it’s a wonderful gift if you have the money to spend. I’m a big believer in having the best mattress, pillows and sheets, especially considering how important it is for your health to get a good night’s sleep!

I hope you found a few good ideas in what I’ve shared here. And if you don’t have the money or are not into gift-giving, that’s ok too! Spending quality time with the people you love is the most important thing, not spending money! Having a nice meal, sharing stories and laughter or just getting friends and family together – all of these are gifts that are not only important for our happiness, but also for our health.

Happiness, joy, laughter and love – all of these are alkaline-forming energies that help reduce blood pressure and boost the immune system. You definitely don’t need “things” to bring happiness and health into your life. But you do need love. And everyone needs more of that!!

More information on cleansing here:

Gallstone Liver Flush – Recipe & Cleanse Info

How to Do a Castor Oil Pack for Liver Cleansing

How to Do Onion Socks for Healing


More on anti-Aging:

3 BEST Detox Bath Recipes to help release toxins

Your skin is your largest organ in the body and it’s also an elimination organ, and can release toxins from the body. A healing bath using the right combination of ingredients can really help with the detoxification process. Read more below to find out my favorite detox bath recipes!

All information in this article is for educational purposes only.
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

For the vision board: This is the perfect outdoor bath!

Detox Bath Preparation

You can either use a bathtub for a full body soak or a rectangular bucket to soak just the feet for your detox bath. A foot bath works really well for either elderly folks or for people who are too ill or injured to get in and out of a tub. If you are using a bathtub, make sure the tub is clean before you prepare your bath.

Detox Bath Recipe #1: For a detox reaction or healing crisis

If you’re experiencing a healing crisis on your detox, take a restorative bath. It’s one of the best and fastest way to reduce the detox reaction. While preparing the bath, connect your phone or tablet to youtube for some inspiring Louise Hay or Esther Hicks audio. In the bath, repeat your positive affirmations out loud. This can really help to dissolve any fear or worry with what you are feeling. Always keep the mind on the right track while the body heals.

Next, prepare a glass and bottle of distilled water to keep next to your bath. Drinking distilled water during a detox reaction can greatly help pass the crisis faster. Distilled water binds to heavy metals and toxins to safely release them through the kidneys and urine.

Add the ingredients below to the bath. Soak in the tub for a minimum of 20 minutes (40 minutes is better). If you don’t have distilled water to drink, then prepare a cup of organic chamomile tea to enjoy during or after your bath.

Epsom Salt Detox Bath Recipe

Add the following to the bath water:

  • 1 1/2 cup Epsom Salts
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (bicarbonate soda)
  • 10-15 drops organic lavender oil

Optional; for added relaxation: Add 1 amethyst crystal (either polished or rough)  to the bath. 

If you’re still not feeling your best after the bath, try a castor oil pack on the liver or a coffee enema to further assist the body in detoxification.

Detox Bath Recipe #2: For clear skin

This healing bath is especially good for rashes, itchy skin, hives, outbreaks, acne, inflammation, red patches or even puffiness in the ankles, hands and feet. Remember, your skin is the largest organ in the body, and it’s also an elimination organ, meaning it helps the body release toxins. Any affliction in the skin is a sign that your body is not eliminating well. This bath is designed to open up the pores in the skin and help speed up the detox or removal of toxins.

Prepare a bath of warm water. Don’t make the water too hot as it can scald the skin. You should be able to comfortable submerge your entire hand in the water. That way, you know the temperature is ok. If you want to also give an extra conditioning treatment to your hair, then apply organic castor oil to your hair, gently rubbing it in, before you enter the bath. Rinse and wash the hair thoroughly after.

Prepare a cup of fresh parsley or dried uva ursi tea to drinking during or after your bath.

Skin Detox Bath Recipe

Add the following to the bath water:

  • 1 cup liquid bentonite clay
  • 2 Tbsp. raw organic apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. organic aloe vera juice
  • 3-5 drops organic rosemary oil

Find all the above ingredients on iherb.com here

For any residual inflammation, soreness or itchy feeling after your bath, try applying cold liquid bentonite clay on the skin once its dry. The cool feeling helps to soothe any fire or burn and the clay naturally draws toxins out of the skin.

Detox Bath #3: For muscle aches and pains

A healing bath can provide wonderful relief from muscle aches, pains and stiff neck and menstrual pain too. Before you enter the bath, use a dry skin brush to gently massage the lymphatic system. Brush the skin using gentle strokes. If you are having pain, then the direction of your brush strokes should be away from the heart (towards the hands and feet).

Prepare a cup of organic sage tea to drinking during or after your bath.

Restorative Muscle Bath Recipe

Add the following to the bath water:

  • 2 cups Epsom salts
  • 2 Tbsp. organic castor oil
  • 8-10 drops organic sage oil

Find all the above ingredients on iherb.com here

After your bath, you can prepare a castor oil pack with heating pad on the sore muscle or stiff neck. Keep the pack applied for 40-60 minutes. (To learn more about the healing benefits of castor oil, check out the book That Oil That Heals: A Physician’s Success with Castor Oil.)

Read more on detox here:

Gallstone Liver Flush – Recipe & Cleanse Info

How to Do Onion Socks for Healing

How to Eat Clean: Start with Green Smoothies!

Green Smoothie for DummiesCheck out my book Green Smoothies for Dummies – I’ve got loads of recipes using dark leafy greens and many delicious combos without any chemical additives, flavorings or refined sugar. It’s so easy!

Clean your body from the inside out and watch your skin improve, your hair and nails get stronger, your eyes look brighter and your waistline slim down….all naturally and effortlessly! It’s simply amazing and your only regret will be that you didn’t start drinking green smoothies sooner.

When you take care of your whole body, you get whole body health.

When you let your food be your medicine, you are always moving towards better health.

Find the book Green Smoothies for Dummies on iTunes or amazon.com!


For more on how to achieve your health goals and actually start feeling great, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a smart phone or digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval for Iridology Analysis.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!


More on anti-Aging:

Are farmers getting CANCER from pesticides sold at Home Depot?

Friends, your health matters, at least to me!  This is something you need to know. Poisons are being marketed and sold to us to use freely on our gardens, fruit, vegetables, flowers, lawns and precious earth. This one particular pesticide is used everywhere, from huge agricultural farms to your neighbor next door, who can easily buy it at Lowes and Home Depot just down the road from you. In July 2017, the State of California added this pesticide under Proposition 65 as “known to the state to cause cancer.” In the EU, it’s currently under discussion for vote on a ban of the chemical by 2020.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. 
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. 

If someone offered you a salad dressing that was known to cause cancer, would you add it to your plate? Of course not! Well, unfortunately…this pesticide is already in the salad! Even in some “organic” foods too!! (You can understand why we moved to the mountains to start growing our own food. Scroll down below to find out what you can do NOW to improve your food at home.)

The world today is currently undergoing a slow and painful death and there is no smoking gun since this pesticide has very sneakily been added to our food supply for the last 4 decades and wrongly labeled as “safe” for the sake of profit. It’s in everything from corn, barley, sugar beets, oats, potatoes, sunflower, soy and canola oil, and the list goes on and on. Of course it’s in the feed given to cows and chickens, so that means it’s even more concentrated in meat, eggs and dairy. Recently, this pesticide was even detected in (non-GMO) Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. In fact, it’s so heavily used that it’s been detected in the water and air. (Do you think the average organic farm is really free from this stuff, and especially considering that most “organic” produce sold in the USA comes from Mexico?) While this pesticide is most commonly used on Genetically Modified (GMO) crops, it can also be used and found in conventional crops as well.

It’s not only in the United States

In Europe, where it’s widely thought to be “better than the United States” for all things related to what’s allowed in foods, you will find this pesticide all over the place. In fact, it’s so pervasive that its residues were recently found in 45% of Europe’s topsoil – and in the urine of three quarters of Germans tested, at five times the legal limit for drinking water. Its residues have been found in biscuits, crackers, crisps, breakfast cereals and in 60% of breads sold in the UK. (Can you imagine how much worse it must be in the US then?!)

I see normal everyday people buying this pesticide at Lowes and Home Depot, actually bragging about how great it works to kill things like poison oak, invasive multi flora rose, or bamboo (without realizing that it’s killing them too!).

Could the dramatic decline in honey bee populations all over the world in recent years be linked to this pesticide as well?

Link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

This particular pesticide has been heavily linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). With NHL, the cancer starts in the white blood cells of the lymphatic system, all of which are part of the body’s immune system. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, tumors develop from lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell.

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:

  • Painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin.
  • Abdominal pain or swelling.
  • Chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing.
  • Persistent fatigue, lethargy, feeling of tiredness.
  • Fever.
  • Night sweats.
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weight loss.
  • Skin rash or itchy skin (pruritus).
  • Difficulty moving parts of the body.
  • Pain in the chest, abdomen or bones for no known reason.

Are you ready to know the name of this pesticide?  Since I don’t want to get trolled or harassed by the company who manufactures this chemical, I’ll write it in this way:

R..O..U..N..D..U..P  also known as  G..l..y..p..h..o..s..a..t..e  made by  M..o..n..s..a..n..t..o

Farmers using this pesticide who got NHL cancer

March 2016 – The family of Cambria, California farmer Jack McCall, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against M.o.n.s.a.n.t.o, claiming that McCall’s cancer was caused by R.o.u.n.d.u.p exposure. McCall was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using R.o.u.n.d.u.p for nearly 30 years on his 20-acre fruit and vegetable farm. He died in December of 2015 after suffering a massive stroke due to complications from cancer.

February 2016 – California couple James and Brenda Huerta filed a R.o.u.n.d.u.p cancer lawsuit against M.o.n.s.a.n.t.o claiming exposure to g.l.y.p.h.o.s.a.t.e caused Brenda to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The R.o.u.n.d.u.p cancer lawsuit claims that both were exposed to the herbicide while living on a sod farm where g.l.y.p.h.o.s.a.t.e was sprayed between 2004 and 2008.

November 2015 – Christine Sheppard owned and worked on a coffee farm in Hawaii between 1995 and 2004. For around eight years, she relied on M.o.n.s.a.n.t.o R.o.u.n.d.u.p [g.l.y.p.h.o.s.a.t.e] to kill weeds on her farm. Sheppard alleges her exposure to R.o.u.n.d.u.p is the cause of her non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In her R.o.u.n.d.u.p cancer lawsuit, she claims that M.o.n.s.a.n.t.o failed to warn the public about the dangers of g.l.y.p.h.o.s.a.t.e.

(The above info resource link here.) 

The list goes on and on. In 2015, 200 people filed a class action lawsuit in California against the maker of this pesticide.

People just don’t know and that’s the problem

Here’s a big part of the problem: the public perception of risk is low. Would you really think your Kona coffee grown on the hills of the Big Island of Hawaii could be loaded with a cancer-causing pesticide? Or you hippie-loving Ben and Jerry’s ice cream? It’s really hard to convince people that these seemingly healthy products could be contaminated.

Last year I was at a weekend farmer’s market her in Western North Carolina. There was a nice man selling “farm fresh artisanal” goat cheese. We got to talking, and I casually asked him about what he feeds the goats. He explained to me that he doesn’t have his own goats. Instead, he buys the milk from 2 different local goat farmers. I asked if the farmers used non-GMO feed. He exclaimed, “No way! They can’t afford that, and I couldn’t afford to buy their milk if they did!.” I was in shock. I think it took half a minute for me to say something! What’s even more shocking is that his cheese sells for $12-15 per piece! And for that, you’re getting a GMO product (along with the cancer-causing pesticides)!! Every time I’ve been to that market since, his booth is packed with customers. Sadly, I’m sure they have no idea what they are really getting. (In his defense, I can only say that perhaps he, like many others, just doesn’t know or understand the problem.)

The numbers say it all

Look at the charts below to get a better understanding of what we are really dealing with. To understand the severity of these findings, remember, research shows that probable harm to human health begins at really low levels of exposure – only 0.1 ppb. And yes, the manufacturer of that chemical is trying desperately hide that number for the general public! Below, you can see for yourself that many foods were found to have over 1,000 times this amount!  Also note that you see organic foods on the list too. This should be on the front page of every newspaper!!

What You can do: 5 Easy Steps

Hopefully by now, you are wondering, what can I do to improve my health and stay away from this chemical?! This is something that I will go into more and more in future posts, to help you navigate through this maze and find better ways to detoxify your body so you don’t have too much accumulation of any chemical or heavy metal. In the meantime, some things you can do now:

  1. Avoid buying organic produce from Mexico. Since we have no idea what’s it the soil, water or otherwise…it’s just a risk not worth taking. Organic produce from USA may not be much better, but at least there is a chance! (And when you see the difference in price between organic from Mexico vs. organic from California, doesn’t it make you wonder??)
  2. Avoid bottled water, unless it’s distilled water. Don’t waste your money on anything other than distilled water…and at least the distilled water can help bind and transport heavy metals out of the body. We drink freshly collected mountain spring water and distilled water in our home.
  3. DON’T BUY or USE R.O.U.N.D.U.P !!! Not for any reason! I cannot emphasize this enough. If people stop buying this crap, the company will suffer. Let your lawn and flowers and bamboo do want they want…which is grow! If you don’t like a particular weed, pull it out of the ground. Would you rather have no weeds and cancer, or no cancer and weeds? It’s a no brainer!
  4. Avoid foods from China. This is easier said than done and takes a bit of learning to figure out what common foods are imported from China. Garlic is a good example. Nearly all conventional fresh garlic sold in supermarkets today comes from China.  An easy upgrade for you and your family is to buy locally grown certified organic garlic (or grow your own, like we do!).
  5. Avoid packaged snack foods. Use only certified organic spices. Use whole organic ingredients (preferably locally grown) and make meals from from scratch whenever possible.

Ready to do even more? Start planting more pollinating flowers outside your home or apartment. And don’t use any chemicals on them! Give the honey bees a chance to survive with some decent clean food. I’ve found that the bees in our area really love organic catnip, lavender, sage and delphinium – all of which are pretty easy to grow.

How to Eat Clean: Start with Green Smoothies!

Green Smoothie for DummiesCheck out my book Green Smoothies for Dummies – I’ve got loads of recipes using dark leafy greens and many delicious combos without any chemical additives, flavorings or refined sugar. It’s so easy!

Clean your body from the inside out and watch your skin improve, your hair and nails get stronger, your eyes look brighter and your waistline slim down….all naturally and effortlessly! It’s simply amazing and your only regret will be that you didn’t start drinking green smoothies sooner.

When you take care of your whole body, you get whole body health.

When you let your food be your medicine, you are always moving towards better health.

Find the book Green Smoothies for Dummies on iTunes or amazon.com!


For more on how to achieve your health goals and actually start feeling great, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a smart phone or digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval for Iridology Analysis.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!


More on Food Labels:

More on Food Additives and Food Allergies:

More on Genetically Engineering Foods:

Knowing Botanical Food Families for Cross-Reactivity Allergies

If you have any food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies, then it’s definitely important to check this Botanical Food Family list. When you have a sensitivity to one food, you may also have a “cross-reactivity” or sensitivity to other foods within the same botanical family. A cross-reactivity can occur when the proteins in one allergen food are like the proteins in another. Foods within the same botanical family often contain similar proteins. If you are sensitive to one particular food within a botanical family, you may also be sensitive to other foods within the same family of foods.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. 
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. 

Check the Botanical Food Family List against your allergies

Testing for food allergies can also become tricky due to the occurrence of cross-reactivity. You may get a positive test for a food that has the same protein as another food, and it’s the other food that you are more sensitive or allergic too. For that reason, it’s always important to check the Botanical Food Family list for any sensitivity or allergy that you may think you have. Then, be on the lookout for other foods within the same botanical family. Note that tree nut allergies are especially prone to cross-reactivity sensitivities.

The 8 most common food allergies (also known as “the Big 8”) include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybean

Food Allergy

The “Big 8” account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States. However, most people don’t have a true allergy to a food. A true food allergy occurs when the immune system makes a type of antibody (called IgE) to proteins in a particular food. The antibody is created because the body looks at that protein as an invader or a toxin and tried to eradicate it. This IgE reaction can be tested in a food allergy test. Usually with a food allergy, the reaction occurs very quickly and is severe. Often times there is a feeling of throat tightness. Anaphylaxis and loss of consciousness can also occur. If you have are having an allergic reaction, you should always seek medical attention immediately.

Food Intolerance

Most people do not have a true “IgE reaction” to a food. Rather, they fall within the grey area of food intolerance. A food intolerance can still make you feel miserable, and cause reactions such as skin rashes, itching, hives, urticaria, swelling of the skin, nausea, stomach cramps, headaches, insomnia, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty (wheezing, repeated throat clearing, cough) and even pain in the joints. But, you can’t get a positive IgE test result. The best way to identify a food intolerance is to eliminate that food, and then re-assess your symptoms. To learn more about the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance, go here. In some cases, we need to develop a clear outline for an elimination diet where we eliminate foods in an ordered approach. In these cases, we also need to be on the lookout for any cross-reactivity within the same botanical family of foods.

Food Additive Intolerance

In addition to having food intolerances or allergies, I find that a lot of people are sensitive to certain additives in foods. This is something we always need to consider when anyone is having a chronic condition. Even 100% certified organic products can contain certain problematic food additives. The categories I work mostly with include flavor enhancers, colorings, preservatives and stabilizers/emulsifiers. This is an area that many nutritionists and health practitioners are not aware of, and many of my clients have gone through several healers with no avail before finding me. Their first comments are usually in the realm of, “Wow, I’m not crazy after all!” and “I wish I had found you sooner!” Food additives are often hidden under other terms. There are many legal loopholes that food companies use to “hide” the additives in “so-called healthy” foods.

Botanical Families of Foods

Use the list below as a reference for better understanding your food allergy or intolerance. Note that fish and shellfish are also included below, even though they’re not in a plant kingdom family. What’s most important is to get to know your body and how it’s reacting to certain proteins in foods. Long-term, working on improving your gut health will also help to lessen the chance of developing more allergies. The importance of digestive health and bacterial balance is not to be underestimated. In fact, a recent study from Australia just proved that 2/3 of peanut allergies were reversed after giving the patients specific probiotics (source: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute).

Check this list for Cross Reactivity!

Botanical Food Family List

Apple Family (Rose Family): Apple, Apple Cider, Apple Vinegar, Apple Pectin, Quince, Pear (The apple family is part of the bigger rose family)

Arrowroot: Arrowroot

Arum Family: Dasheen, Poi, Taro

Banana: Banana, Plantain

Birch: Filbert, Hazelnut

Brazil Nut: Brazil Nut

Buckwheat: Buckwheat, Garden Sorrel, Rhubarb

Cactus: Cactus, Prickly Pear, Tequila

Capers: Capers Cashew: Cashew, Mango, Pistachio

Cereals: Bamboo Shoots; Barley; Barley, Malt; Bran (wheat); Cane sugar; Cane Molasses; Chestnut, Water; Chestnut, Ling nut; Chestnut, Singhara nut; Corn ; Corn Meal ; Corn Starch ; Corn Oil ; Corn Sugar; Corn syrup; Corn dextrose; Corn glucose ; Corn cerelose; Farina (wheat); Graham flour (wheat) ; Gluten flour (wheat) ; Millet; Patent Flour (wheat); Oats; Rice; Rye; Sorghum; Wheat; Wheat flour; Wheat Germ; Wheat (whole) flour; Wild Rice.

Citrus: Angostura; Citrange; Citron; Grapefruit; Kumquat; Lemon; Lime; Orange; Tangerine

Cochliospermum Family: Karaya Gum, Guaiac Gum

Composite Family (Aster): Absinthe; Artichoke; Artichoke, Jerusalem; Calomel; Celtuse; Chicory; Dandelion; Endive; Escarole; Head Lettuce; Lettuce, Leaf ; Lettuce; Oyster Plant, Salsify; Sesame Seeds/ Oil; Sunflower/ Oil/ Seeds; Vermouth; Vermouth (Ragweed); Vermouth (Pyrethrum); Yarrow.

Crustaceans: Crab; Crayfish; Lobster; Prawns; Shrimp.

Cyperaceae Family (a Sedge): Chinese Waterchestnut

Curry Powder: not a single food but a blend of spices.

Ebony: Persimmon Flax – Linseed oil, flaxseed, flaxseed oil

Fresh Water Fish: Bass, Catfish, Croaker, Perch, Pike, Salmon, Smelt, Trout, Whitefish.

Fungus: Mushroom, Yeast/Antibiotics.

Ginger: Arrowroot, Cardamon, Ginger, Turmeric

Gooseberry: Currant, Gooseberry

Goosefoot (Beet): Beet, Sugar; Chard, Kochia, Lambs Quarters, Spinach, Thistle.

Gourd (Melon): Casaba; Cantaloupe; Cucumber; Honey Dew; Muskmelon; Persian Melon; Pumpkin; Squash; Vegetable Marrow; Water Melon. Grape: Brandy; Champagne; Crème of Tartar; Grape; Raisin; Wine; Wine Vinegar.

Heath: Cranberry, Blueberry, Huckleberry, Wintergreen.

Holly: Mate.

Honeysuckle: Elderberry.

Iris: Saffron. Laurel: Avocado, Bay Leaves, Camphor, Cinnamon, Laurel, Sassafras.

Legume: Acacia; Acacia Gum; Alfalfa; Arabic; Black-eyed pea; Carob; Carob (St. John’s Bread); Cassia; Chick Pea; Field Pea; Green Bean; Green Pea; Guar gum; Jack bean; Karaya Gum; Kidney bean; Lentil; Licorice; Lima bean; Locust Bean Gum; Mungo Bean; Navy Bean; Peanut; Peanut oil; Pinto Bean; Soybean; Soybean oil/flour/lecithin; Split Pea; String Bean; Talca Gum; Tamarind; Tonka bean; Tragancanth Gum; Urd Flour.

Lily: Asparagus, Chives, Garlic, Leek, Onion, Sparsparilla.

Litchi: Litchi Nut.

Mallow: Cottonseed meal, Cottonseed oil, Okra.

Maple: Maple syrup and maple sugar.

Miscellaneous: Honey (watch if you are allergic to bee venom).

Mint: Basil, Horehound, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Savoury, Spearmint, Thyme.

Mussels: Abalone, Clam, Mussel, Oyster, Scallop, Squid.

Morning Glory: Jicama, Sweet Potato, Yam.

Mulberry: Breadfruit, Fig, Hops, Mulberry.

Mustard: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Collard, Colza Shoots, Kale, Kohlrabi, Kraut, Horse Radish, Mustard, Mustard Greens, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnips, Watercress.

Myrtle: Allspice, Cloves, Eucalyptus, Guava, Paprika, Pimento.

Nightshade: Brinjal, Cayenne, Capsicum, Eggplant, Ground Cherry, Banana Pepper, Bell Pepper, Chili Pepper, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Paprika, Pimento, Potato, Tabasco, Thorn Apple, Tobacco, Tomato.

Nutmeg: Mace, Nutmeg.

Olive: Olive, olive oil.

Orchid: Vanilla

Palm: Coconut, Date, Palm Cabbage, Sago.

Parsley: Angelica, Anise, Carrots, Celery, Celeriac, Caraway, Celery Seed, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnips, Sweet Cicily, Water Celery.

Pawpaw: Pawpaw, papaya, papain.

Pepper: Black pepper, white pepper.

Pine: Juniper, Pinion nut.

Pineapple: Pineapple.

Plum: Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, Plum, Prune Plum.

Pomegranate: Pomegranate.

Poppy: Poppy seed.

Rose: Blackberry, Boysenberry, Dewberry, Loganberry, Strawberry, Youngberry. (see also Apple family).

Salt Water Fish: Bass, Cod, Flounder, Herring, Mackerel, Mullet, Salmon.

Spurge: Tapioca.

Stercula: Cocoa, Cola Bean, Chocolate (Cocoa).

Tea: Tea.

Walnut: Butternut, Hickory nut, Pecan, Black Walnut, English Walnut.

This list is from http://www.foodallergygourmet.com/


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1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
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More on Food Allergies:

The BEST natural remedy for your pet’s health!

In a recent blogpost, I praised the healing powers of castor oil. But what I wanted to share with you today was how we even use castor oil on our dog. In my opinion, it’s simply the best natural remedy to have at home for pets. You can use it on your pets too!

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. 
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. 

Finally, a chance to feature Ella on my blog <3

Ella has benefited from the healing effects of castor oil. After she got spayed, she was understandably in a lot of pain. I was worried because she’s a big dog (more than 85 pounds of pure Great Pyrenees love) and she was having a difficult time walking after the procedure. When she arrived home, I immediately applied castor oil on her belly around the incision, but not directly on the stitches. I noticed an almost immediate improvement in her pain levels and ability to get up/walk/move in just a few hours. I continued to apply it twice daily for 2 weeks after her surgery. She healed perfectly with no infections or problems. I do believe the castor oil sped up the process of healing for her. Funny enough, during that time I noticed she would lick my hands after I applied the oil and I realized that she really liked the taste! So, I started adding 1 Tbsp. of castor oil to her food daily. After a few months of her eating this small amount of castor oil daily, I really noticed a major improvement in her coat. Her hair was thicker, softer and fuller…to the point where now, people comment on her fur every time we take her out. “That’s the fluffiest dog I’ve ever seen!” is something we hear all the time now. Before the castor oil, I cannot recall anyone commenting on her fur. One small word of advice on this – if you do decide to give castor oil to your dog, only add it once a day and to the morning food only. Because castor oil does have a natural laxative effect, adding it to an evening meal can make a dog have to go in the middle of the night. And I’m sure neither you nor your dog wants that!

After so much success with castor oil, I did some further research and found that it’s also helpful for ear infections, ringworm, itchy rashes, ear mites and even fleas. I immediately thought again of our lovely dog Ella and how she was often irritated with her ears, trying to scratch or shake her head all too often. Many times, I would check her ears and could see signs of red inflammation.

So, I bought a glass dropper and poured castor oil pus several drops of organic tea tree oil inside. Now, when I see her having any ear problems, I will place 1-2 drops of organic castor oil in each ear and rub the ear after. I try to do this at night before she goes to bed. Amazingly, the next day I can see that she’s no longer irritated, no longer scratching and when I check the ears, they are a good healthy color again.

I love having natural remedies that work for everyone at home, including our animals!

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