Friday, September 29, 2006

Consumption of coffee is associated with reduced risk of death attributed to inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases in the Iowa Women's Health Study

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Consumption of coffee, a major source of dietary antioxidants, may inhibit inflammation and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases in postmenopausal women."

Well folks, with so much evidence building that coffee may be good for you, how bad for fertility can it be? Half the stuff my great,late Dr. Beer was doing was things to calm my raging immune system.

So in my quest to clear coffee's name, here's some results of my unscientific poll so far:

1. My Chinese medicine person, an expert in fertility, told me to ditch the dairy (haha, I'm way ahead of her) but coffee "as long as you don't drink, like 6 cups a day" was fine.

2. I was out to dinner with new friends, one of whom was pregnant. Of course I immediately pried into her personal life and she was nice enough to inform me that the bebe was her #2, and indeed this time she had been way more relaxed about "a little coffee."

3. A dear college friend whom I never see without some oversized thing of coffee in her hand said she indeed was "bad" and drank tons before and during her two (successful) pregnancies. I would like to make her feel less "bad." Please share you coffee and conception/miscarriage stories!!! Lloyd, my new buddy at the Year of Coffee blog is also helping me with my unscientific research. Anyone else wanna ask this question on your blog?

Good coffee alert: After cyber-trekking to the Himalayas for some awesome coffee, I decided to try a locally roasted brand, New Harvest. Their darker roasts are fanastic, esp. the Timor (chocolatey) and the French Roast, which has nary a hint of charcoal.

These guys are also at the Brown Wednesday Farmers market, by the way.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Chinese herbs

Here are my herbs for the phase that's supposed to help my menstruation clear out and clean house. Aren't they pretty and flowery looking? When I cook 'em they stink up the whole house. MAN FERTILITY took little sips of the other formula (for earlier part of the cycle) and declared it strange but okay. This one? After boiling the hell out of for 20 minutes, it gets pretty gooey and soupy. The taste? Even he agrees....blech....

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More sludge news: Confronting the Estrogenic Effect


Earlier I had been trying to pull together the results of a European conference on the impact of the environment on men's health, especially the alarming worldwide decline in sperm counts, but for some reason the report was only available in Serbo-Croatian or something like that.

So I was glad to find
Confronting the Estrogenic Effect, which tells us that males - specifically the Y chromosomes that make men, well, men - are under attack. The average sperm count of contemporary human men compared to their grandfathers is dramatically less, approaching the half mark.

To all the crap found in sludge, add: xenoestrogens. Eeek!

Colds and flu season coming up...

EIDON Immune Support

MAN FERTILITY swears by this stuff; he had a summer cold that turned into an autumn cold and he had trouble shaking it, esp. the hacky cough. While I'm playing with my Chinese herbs, I also had a sample bottle of this. It made him feel so great overnight, he was begging for more after the sample bottle ran dry.

P.S. If you're sensitive to sulfur (e.g., can't eat broccoli) this might not be for you. Likewise if you're allergic to silver.

But otherwise, it's full of gentle stuff to help prop up the old immune system.

According to the company, you can also use it on cuts. Here's what's in it, according to the company's literature:

The immune system gains strength from minerals to synthesize proteins which make up all the cells of the body. These essential minerals play the following roles:

1. ZINC - Activates the enzymes of our immune system.
2. SELENIUM - Inhibits viral mutation.
3. SULFUR - Calms the body's inflammatory response.
4. SILVER - Provides a natural defense against bacteria.

I will return, once I get these herbs cooked!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Personal Recentering Time

Okay, for any of you MAN FERTILITY/squeamish/blood-phobic types, LOOK AWAY!

As Joan Rivers used to say, "Can we tawk?"

We've been trying to conceive for two months, but all this talk about sludge has made me realize that I am personally a bit sludgy: my menstrual cycle starts out as weak brown spots, then is dark and clotty, plus accompanied by PAIN that is somewhat relieved by the hot water bottle. Plus, something that I haven't had since I went gluten-free: the menstrually-related zit.

Ugh. Classic case of being hormonally imbalanced, and "cold uterus syndrome," from Chinese medicine.

I have a great acupuncturist here, but I decided to try a place in Boston where I could get acupuncture plus Chinese herbs plus this very intense massage called Tuina, where the masseuse pretty much finds all your sore spots and jumps up and down on them and really gets that lymph flowing.

The practioners there pretty much agreed with my self assessment, but with varying estimates of how long it would take me to get rebalanced. I'll let you know how it goes.

One day I got to the clinic too early and chatted with another patient, a woman who said she wished she'd known about Chinese medicine back when she was having fertility problems. She said she did IVF (I don't know if it was successful or not) but she was in to get treatments for to help her feel better because she was being treated for cancer, which she said may very well be related to the fertility treaments and its crazy manipulation of hormones...

Anyway, it's too early to tell after a week if I feel better, but one thing I don't like is how they stick the needles in extra deep until they hurt. I KNOW that if your chi is blocked, often the points are tender and that's a good sign, but, call me crazy, I hate pain...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's the %#)($#*$&! not the spinach!

Finally, the mainstream media is letting in a little peep of reason over this whole "E. Coli spinach" frenzy: The New York Times today (okay, it's the op-ed page, not the news, but you can't have everything):

Leafy Green Sewage
Published: September 21, 2006

FARMERS and food safety officials still have much to figure out about the recent spate of E. coli infections linked to raw spinach. So far, no particular stomachache has been traced to any particular farm irrigated by any particular river.

There is also no evidence so far that Natural Selection Foods, the huge shipper implicated in the outbreak that packages salad greens under more than two dozen brands, including Earthbound Farm, Organic and the Farmer’s Market, failed to use proper handling methods.

Indeed, this epidemic, which has infected more than 100 people and resulted in at least one death, probably has little do with the folks who grow and package your greens. The detective trail ultimately leads back to a seemingly unrelated food industry — beef and dairy cattle.

First, some basic facts about this usually harmless bacterium: E. coli is abundant in the digestive systems of healthy cattle and humans**, and if your potato salad happened to be carrying the average E. coli, the acid in your gut is usually enough to kill it.

But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier, at least for humans. Your stomach juices are not strong enough to kill this acid-loving bacterium, which is why it’s more likely than other members of the E. coli family to produce abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and, in rare cases, fatal kidney failure.

Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It’s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms.

In 2003, The Journal of Dairy Science noted that up to 80 percent of dairy cattle carry O157. (Fortunately, food safety measures prevent contaminated fecal matter from getting into most of our food most of the time.) Happily, the journal also provided a remedy based on a simple experiment. When cows were switched from a grain diet to hay for only five days, O157 declined 1,000-fold.

This is good news. In a week, we could choke O157 from its favorite home — even if beef cattle were switched to a forage diet just seven days before slaughter, it would greatly reduce cross-contamination by manure of, say, hamburger in meat-packing plants. Such a measure might have prevented the E. coli outbreak that plagued the Jack in the Box fast food chain in 1993.

Unfortunately, it would take more than a week to reduce the contamination of ground water, flood water and rivers — all irrigation sources on spinach farms — by the E-coli-infected manure from cattle farms.

The United States Department of Agriculture does recognize the threat from these huge lagoons of waste, and so pays 75 percent of the cost for a confinement cattle farmer to make manure pits watertight, either by lining them with concrete or building them above ground. But taxpayers are financing a policy that only treats the symptom, not the disease, and at great expense. There remains only one long-term remedy, and it’s still the simplest one: stop feeding grain to cattle.

California’s spinach industry is now the financial victim of an outbreak it probably did not cause, and meanwhile, thousands of acres of other produce are still downstream from these lakes of E. coli-ridden cattle manure. So give the spinach growers a break, and direct your attention to the people in our agricultural community who just might be able to solve this deadly problem: the beef and dairy farmers.

Nina Planck is the author of “Real Food: What to Eat and Why.’’

The Worsted Witch » Lawn of the Dead: "A recent study found dozens of medicinal, industrial, and household compounds—also known as biosolids—in the treated sewage sludge that government agencies try to palm off to the unsuspecting as “lawn-and-garden enhancements.”"

Another reason how lawns may be acutely hazardous to your health.

And get yer grassfed meat and help out your friendly local farmer: previous post.

** we take E. coli ourselves: previous post

The blog Sludgie sure has the right idea for names...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yerba Mate Clean Energy -- for your bod

Supposedly, yerba mate', a South American medicinal and cultural drink of ancient origins is really really good for you. Introduced to the world by the Guarani Indians of South America. And it supposedly is the secret to why Che Guevera was so darn energetic (there's even a cameo/product placement in The Motorcycle Diaries of the friends constantly sipping their mate')--and the act of merely drinking is also a traditional, communal activity, what more could you want?

Mate' first came to my attention because some people on the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome boards I am on were talking about it giving you a "clean" burst of energy without the icky letdown common to coffee and tea. I actually LIKE the kick from coffee, but found that mate' did give me some nice sustained energy, especially in the afternoon when I tend to get draggy in the office. (Plus, caffeine not only hsa not been proven to be bad for fertility, but it had been shown to make sperm swim faster. Hyah!

The smokey taste is also not going to make it a new flavor at Starbucks soon, although it taste about 1000000 times better than this Chinese tea I am brewing/drinking/gagging on (more on that later).

Still interested?

Here's an article from the New York Times on how mate' is the new hot thing athletes use to boost their endurance.

Another from USA Today, on all the great antioxidants and other health benefits.

Guayaki is a company that offers organic, shade grown, fair trade products, and they blend them with things like chocolate to make the taste more palatable. There's also this ready-made drink (although it has sugar), which has a nice taste and you can find their stuff in most good health food stores or their website.

For more traditional types, try loose mate' at
Yerba Mate' Cafe
, a great mail order place for organic mate' plus all the doodads that makes making it/drinking it the traditional way (with the cool straw thing, called a bombilla, easier.

Another consideration is that, just like with shade-grown coffee, buying yerba mate' encourages reforestation, as you will make it more worth the farmer's while to repopulate the land with this indigenous plant that grows under the rainforest's verdant canopy. Salud!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

While spinach is being besmirched, see the hidden paths of pesticides

From Grist: Photographer Laurie Tümer shows the hidden paths of pesticides: A scary look at how invisible but toxic pesticide residues are everywhere!

Miranda at Green Goddess Gazette also turned me on to this article about pesticide exposure in daycare centers.

A well-done but depressing article by Somini Sengupta in today's New York Times about how a confluence of world trade inequalities, Monsanto, weather woes (global warming???) and pesticide-pushing are causing many Indian farmers to commit suicide (by pesticide--now readily available at the corner store! Along with GMO seeds!).

NYTimes login:

USERNAME: GreenFertility
PASSWORD: GreenFertility

secret word: soylent green

Monday, September 18, 2006

Organic Spinach is not Evil

I don't know why everyone's been so quick to jump on the diss-organic bandwagon!! A report on ABC News last night showed big pictures of EARTHBOUND FARM ORGANIC signs while mumbling about how the FDA searched and so far failed to turn up any E. coli in the packaging plant or anywhere else. At this writing, they still haven't found any in spinach yet (kids wait with bated breath)!

And, like the DDT malaria thing, they are missing the big picture. E. coli becomes pathogenic when you force cows to eat grain. In fact, I just blogged about this. Who knows the reach of E. coli-laden cow patties? Water? Fertilizer? Sewage?

Here's an article , Diet And Disease In Cattle: High-Grain Feed May Promote Illness And Harmful Bacteria, from SCIENCE magazine if you want more detail.

I don't think people realize that E. coli also naturally populates the human digestive tract . In fact, to help our son's digestive problems, for a while I was buying E. coli from Germany, a patented strain called Mutaflor (a product that, unfortunately, we learned was also a favorite of Hitler, who was nothing if not health-conscious), but I stopped because I was worried about someone thinking I was importing biological weapons or something -- sheesh.

Anyway, no one wants to talk about our industrial farming practices that have gone out of control. Instead, the FDA wants to spray those icky viruses (bacteriophages) that eat E. coli on meat--like your kids' hotdogs--because there's bad E. coli around everywhere, and it's cheaper and easier than "cleaning up the meat processing plants." Can you say ICK? Also, who's to say that when your kids eat the hotdogs, the viruses won't continue to eat the beneficial flora in the gut? Why does no one think more than one step ahead about these things? This is almost as good as when they used to X-ray people's feet in shoe stores!

So anyway, keep all this in mind next time some smarmy John Stossel-type suggests that not only is organic food a scam but it's also poopy. They wish!

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

New York Times: Who's getting first dibs at the tax-payer funded trough at the CDC?

ANSWER: Not the scientists.

Inner Circle Taking More of C.D.C. Bonuses - New York Times: "
Top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received premium bonuses in recent years at the expense of scientists and others who perform much of the agency's scientific work, agency records show.

Those inside the office of the centers' director, Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, have benefited the most, the records show.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times requested records of all cash awards of $2,500 or greater granted to current and former C.D.C. employees from 2000 to mid-2006. The most recent awards are dated July 21.

Dr. Gerberding, whose leadership of the agency is the subject of an inquiry by the Senate Finance Committee, was not immediately available for comment."
By the way, Dr. Julie Gerberding is the same expert who is telling us parents (including physicians, scientists, immunologists, bitchy novelist/bloggers) that concerns about the links between mercury in childhood vaccinations and the occurrence of autism are too wacky-woo to be worth her time:
No Vaccine-Autism Link, Parents Are Told
New York Times July 20, 2005

Top officials from three of the nation's premier public health agencies held an unusual news conference on Tuesday to say that childhood vaccines are life-saving medicines with no proven link to autism.

Why unusual? It's because they pulled an emergency last-minute press meeting to pre-empt a huge rally of pissed off parents that was going to be going on in D.C. with wacko speakers like:

Representative Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican who champions the notion that thimerosal has caused an explosion of autism cases around the world, attended the news conference and, after it ended, gave his own press briefing criticizing the public health officials.

''It seemed that this was an effort to assuage public concerns, but I think parents are much smarter than some people give them credit for,'' said Mr. Weldon, who was a practicing physician before his election to the House in 1994
And what's great, vaccine damage is not limited to liberals! See more speakers like Rep. Dan Burton (vaccine damaged grandchild), former New York Times reporter David Kirby, plus don't miss the testimony from a healed formerly "autistic" child all here.

And don't let me even get into the news about some of the so-called impartial docs who help develop the vaccines and, oddly, gee howdidthathappen? they somehow also get put on the CDC MANDATED vaccine schedule. That rant must wait for another day so I don't blow my top.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Before you write out that big check to the Republican National Committee...

This is from the DNC website:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean sent a letter to Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman...after a Michigan newspaper revealed that an RNC-funded organizer in Michigan is coordinating "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" and "Fun With Guns" events at the University of Michigan, similar to Republican events in other states like Pennsylvania and Texas.

In the first event participants would win prizes for catching others posing as illegal immigrants and in the latter, "young Republicans would shoot cardboard cut-outs of Democratic leaders such as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)." The report of these RNC-funded activities also comes just two days after the Washington Post reported that "in a pivotal year, [the] GOP plans to get personal." [The Michigan Daily, 9/12/06; Washington Post, 9/10/2006]...

...Dean further challenged Mehlman to help "elevate the political discourse in America, and...act to have these desperate, inappropriate attacks stopped"

Apparently they were planning to run one at the University of Texas but the Latino students got a wee bit upset.

This post has nothing to do with fertility, except that it's seriously un-fertile behavior and again, I wonder, where is the media, liberal or otherwise? I'm so sick of the Republicans always being, "We're the values party." I think they're just mean! Hello, media? Hello?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Need Help Taking out Wheat/Dairy?

A lot of autistic kiddies are on a gluten (wheat) and (casein)dairy-free diet for lots of reasons, not the least that it can really calm down their immune systems and help their behaviors. The trouble for them is the proteins in soy, wheat, and milk can be very irritating, to the point they may even be acting as neurotoxins.

Also, a lot of autistic kids also have celiac disease (which affects 1 in 133 people, according to the Celiac Disease foundation another nasty autoimmune disorder where your body makes anti-gliadin (gluten) antibodies, which can also aggravate other autoantibody conditions such as thyroid (see post on gluten and fertility).

Not surprisingly, this kind of info is finally making its way into mainstream society, and even last Tuesday, when I trotted out the gluten free cake for a friend's birthday, I heard at least three people, say something like, "You know, my friend took wheat out of her diet and feel so much better...etc."

Anyway, this proteolytic enzyme (i.e., digests proteins) specifically targets gluten, casein and soy (Asian soy foods specifically are fermented to break down the protein). I've been around the block enzyme-wise, but this one seems to work the best. I AM gluten- and dairy-free, but I take these if I am unsure about trace glutens if I'm eating out, and I send them in to school with J because no matter who careful he and his teachers are, someone at the next seat is eating a cumby sandwich.

If you're considering a gluten free diet, you might want to try it AND zap yourself with some enzymes just to make sure. Unfortunately, I think gluten takes a few weeks to clear the body, but you might be able to discern if you feel better fairly quickly.

n.b. I've always admired that these products use top quality ingredients that you might not necessarily know are good for you(MCT oil, xylitol--antibacterial--totally natural flavoring). I also happened to meet the inventor and his wife when they were toodling through Providence, which only strengthened this impression; he forewent a lucrative career at an evil drug company to instead make these enzymes, which make the world a better place. Plus, these new chewables taste kind of like Sweet-tarts. What more could you want???

More info here.

p.s. Celiac disease is a serious disease. If you think you might have it, you should see your doctor first.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Secrets of Asian American Longevity

(photo credit: New York Times)

Okay, the New York Times, following up the Harvard Study that was just released, went and did a story on the long-living Asian ladies in Bergen County (hm, doesn't that sound like some Bob Dylan song?).

Not surprisingly, a good majority seem to be Korean, with their kimchi-eating, fermented soybean soup glugging, stress-busting norae-bang (karaoke) healthy habits. (I also posit, looking from my parents, they grew up in a time with no flouride, didn't use aluminum-containing antiperspirant, ate lots of raw foods, farmers were too poor to use pesticides/fertilizer, didn't get a flu shot and other vaccines every year, etc.)

Don't forget you saw it first on Green Fertility.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MSG in your "healthy" products

On this blog I have a no-diss rule, similar to the one I use while reviewing books. I don't find too much use, karmically or otherwise for the bad book review: if a book is good, I want everyone to know about it. If it's not, who am I to trash it, knowing too well how hard it is to get a book out at all? My policy (which has always been okay with my editors) is to return any books I don't like and have it reassigned.

Similarly, most (not all!) small companies seem to have their corporate hearts in the right place making alternative healthy products.

However, I was shocked, shocked, when I recently received a health food toothpaste, which looked great, no sodium laurel sulfate, flouride, etc....until I noticed an ingredient, sodium glutamate, which is our friend, MSG. Sodium glutamate breaks up into sodium and glutamate, and that this ingredient is missing the "mono" part on the label is immaterial. The company had been responsive earlier, but didn't answer back to my email about, "What's the deal with the sodium glutamate in this????" So...

Basically, you want to avoid glutamates whenever possible: glutamates occur naturally in food, but the unnaturally processed concentrated stuff is a neurotoxin! That's why is gives you a headache.

It is especially important to protect pregnant ladies and young children from this.

The scary thing is, MSG is more prevalent in your "natural" foods that you think. Anything labeled "natural flavor" can be MSG because it's technically an amino acid that does thus occur in nature. So if you see, blueberry flavor, vanilla, then NATURAL, what could it be?

Check it out: Many "healthy" and vegetarian foods contain MSG in the form of yeast extract

Oh, and I've seen it masquerading as "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" and "isolated vegetable protein"--makes it sound healthy, ey?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

East versus West?

A new study at the Harvard School of public health states: "Although we share in the U.S. a reasonably common culture...there's still a lot of variation in how people live their lives."

The study analyzed mortality data between 1982-2001, and came up with distinct groupings that they named the eight Americas:
_Asian-Americans, average per capita income of $21,566, have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.

_Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.

_Middle America (mostly white), $24,640, 77.9 years.

_Low income whites in Appalachia, Mississippi Valley, $16,390, 75 years.

_Western American Indians, $10,029, 72.7 years.

_Black Middle America, $15,412, 72.9 years.

_Southern low-income rural blacks, $10,463, 71.2 years.

_High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.

The longest-living sub-group was Asian American women living in Bergen County with Asians in general exceeding the life expectancy of the next long-livin' group (rural whites) by almost 6 years.

Who know what this is related to, but I DO know that year I spent living in Korea (Seoul is pretty polluted, however) did change my views on healthcare pretty fundamentally. Koreans still incorporate the Eastern medicine ideas of staying healthy and strengthening the immune system through tonics, food, walking in the mountain air, and spring water instead of always focusing on drugs and surgery as a "cure." The concept of balance was always a big one, as I had everyone from my Fulbright faculty advisor to random people on the street telling me, "You look too yang, you should be eating more ___."

Plus, like many Asian women, my mom never had any menopause symptoms--hot flashes and things like that are also considered signals of "imbalance." She's not a huge Eastern medicine type, but she does eat a fairly Asian-y (e.g., fermented soy) diet. Who knows?

FertilityBitch's Eastern moneysaving tip of the day: you can buy shitake mushroom cheeeeeeep at a Korean grocery. Just go in and ask for p'yogo mushrooms. Dr. Andrew Weil thinks these mushrooms have immune modulating, anti-viral and cholesterol-reducing properties. Certain extracts of shiitake mushrooms are used in Japan as adjunctive therapy to strengthen immunity of cancer patients during chemotherapy and radiation.

To be filed under: He calls it medicine, I call it delicious in kimbap.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Herbs for fertility - red clover

I've gotten a few emails from people telling me how they (or close relatives/friends) have had conception success with RED CLOVER. I know that red clover is a great blood tonic, but hadn't thought of it too much vis a vis fertility. I do know that it's totally benign (don't know if this is a Minnesota thing, but we used to pick those juicy buds and eat them or suck out the little bits of "honey" in the individual petals while waiting for the school bus--watch out, though, because bees like the "honey" too!). My mom said she read somewhere that red clover is also good for asthma.

The dried unprocessed flowers (which I've found in the bulk area of several organic food co-ops) are best, according to herbal expert Susun Weed:
"One of the most cherished of the fertility-increasing plants is red clover (Trifolium pratense). Common in fields and along roadsides, it has bright pink (not really red) blossoms from mid-summer into the chilly days of fall. A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use. The raw blossoms are delicious in salads and nutritious when cooked with grains such as rice or millet.

To make a fertility-enhancing infusion, I take one ounce by weight of the dried blossoms (fresh won't work for this application) and put them in a quart size canning jar. I fill the jar with boiling water, screw on a tight lid, and let it steep at room temperature overnight (or for at least four hours). Dozens of women have told me that they had successful pregnancies after drinking a cup or more (up to four cups) a day of red clover infusion.

It is especially helpful if there is scaring of the fallopian tubes, irregular menses, abnormal cells in the reproductive tract, or 'unexplained' infertility. It may take several months for the full effect of this herb to come on and pregnancy may not occurs until you have used it for a year or two. You can improve the taste by including some dried peppermint."

To be filed under: can't hurt, may help, and delicious in salad.


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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Recycling Coffee

(image from Year of Coffee blog)

I think I mentioned that, like many writers, I have this coffee ritual thing going on (better than a Hemingwayesque booze thing to get me in the mood, I guess) but I actually only drink about 1/2 my mug, because a large part of this ritual is grooving on the aroma, the warmth, etc.

I've been feeling guilty (and not because of fertility reasons, see *** at bottom) leaving behind a half cup of smoky dark-roast organic coffee made with filtered water, and undoubtedly laboriously picked in a fair trade situation. My little brain has come up with two solutions so far:

(1) Make a better-than-the-real thing Starbuck's iced mocha by adding the coffee, a tsp. of Green & Black's awesome organic dark chcolate powder, and a little sweetener (I use agave syrup) plus equal parts rice milk and a leetle ice. (Green & Blacks is also a company devoted to ethical trading and organic products.)

(2) After noticing how tinted some items on my desk have become after the constant sloshing, I've decided once the weather gets too cold for iced coffee I'll save up the coffee and dye a neat organic t-shirt that I have that is wonderful, save for the fact that it's white and has a big yellow turmeric stain on the front. Stay tuned.

***The FertilityBitch is, O.J.-finding the -real-killer-like, working hard to clear the coffee's name as a possible infertility culprit. I'm taking an informal poll of people who've conceived and had successful pregnancies while quaffing the Joe. So far almost everyone I've queried said they did NOT stop while conceiving and the pregnancy, including a woman who works at a coffee roaster and who drank incredible amounts (she told me at the end of her pregnancy she "cut down" to just a "few" cups a day).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why not camel milk?

After that admiring review of the nutritional value of donkey milk, camels from all over the world have been emailing me to extoll the virtues of their milk.

This just in from Hippy Shopper
With a similar taste to cow's milk (though without its propensity to curdle) and three times the vitamin C, Mauritanian camel milk is a new hot product on the global market. It can even be made into cheese with a similar taste to goat Camembert (but don't look for that on the market since red tape is threatening to choke the product's export chances before they even get started). In a country where 2/3 of the population live on £1 per day, fair trade camel dairy products could make a huge difference: the potential market is tagged at a cool £10bn. Thanks to the dairy, Mauritania's nomads have been able to connect to the ever-globalizing world without being swallowed by it.
I hope the red tape thing can be cleared up, but you never know. At a farmer's market in Minneapolis, I stopped to admire some bison jerky...but gagged when I saw the label and how full of nitrites, msg, etc., the stuff was. When I asked the farmer-guy if he was ever going to have some jerky w/o chemicals, he said he actually was in the process of doing it, BUT there was a LOT more onerous bureaucracy (including having inspectors actually WATCH him making jerky, which, if he makes it the way I make it, it's literally like watching meat dry) if you want to try to keep the meat in its natural state, like the Indians and early pioneers did forever. I don't know why the government puts so much faith in chemicals: tons of nitrites and MSG, ergo okay to eat.

Doesn't that seem kind of backwards?

Any USDA inspectors out there?

Friday, September 08, 2006

While you were sleeping: USDA tries to relax grassfed standards

While you were busy enjoying the last rays of summer, the government was equally busy carefully waiting until the long holiday weekend to release this little tidbit about relaxing the standards for grassfed beef.

I've been waaaaaaaiting for some news outlet to notice this (nothing in the NY Times) but USA Today and others have finally picked up the story (yippee-yi-yay!) off the AP wires.

From : "The Agriculture Department has proposed a standard for grass-fed meat that doesn't say animals need pasture and that broadly defines grass to include things like leftovers from harvested crops.

Methinks under these wonderful "standards" you could basically take the carbon-monoxided styrofoamed and plastic wrapped (and likely e. coli-laden) shit in the supermarket and slap on a "grassfed" label on it, preferably with a graphic that suggests natural, pristine, etc., sort of the way BP, the oil company with the pipelines in Alaska that have been leaking all over the place, has redefined itself as some kind of eco company by hiring a PR firm and coming up with that new, cute green logo. (See GreenLogo, but BP is old oil, great NY Times column by Joseph Nocera.)

Basically, the government wants to undermine what "grass fed" means to consumers (soon, each cow on the conveyor belt on its way to slaughter will be giving its one blade of grass), not unlike when the government tried to rule crops grown in chemical-sewage sludge could be labeled organic. Thank you, Senator Leahy from Vermont and others for stopping this!

Again, another advantage of buying local grassfed from your friendly farmer is that you can meet the meat.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sunscreen found to generate harmful compounds that promote skin cancer

I know this headline sounds like something from The Onion, but it's not. Here's an article on how a new study from the University of California confirms earlier suspicions that sunscreen may actually promote skin cancer: "Originally published August 30 2006
A team of researchers from the University of California has found that sunscreen can do more harm than good once it soaks into the skin, where it actually promotes the harmful compounds it is meant to protect against.

The research team found that three commonly used ultraviolet (UV) filters -- octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone 3 and octocrylene -- eventually soak into the deeper layers of the skin after their application, leaving the top skin layers vulnerable to sun damage. UV rays absorbed by the skin can generate harmful compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can cause skin cancer and premature aging. The researchers found that once the filters in sunscreen soak into the lower layers of skin, the filters react with UV light to create more damaging ROS.

The Cal team's research is the first to indicate that sunscreen filters -- intended to protect the skin from the very UV damage they apparently promote -- have reacted in such a way.

The researchers found that the filters only become damaging when they are soaked into the skin and another layer of sunscreen is not applied.

'This research confirms what the natural health community has been saying for years: That sunscreens are harmful to your health,' said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate. "The best sunscreen is actually achieved with a diet high in antioxidants," he explained. "When you eat berries, superfoods and fresh produce on a regular basis, these natural antioxidants are utilized by your skin to protect you from excessive ultraviolet ray exposure. Sunburns are caused more by poor nutrition than by UV ray exposure."

[remember when I said despite sunscreen-less frolicks in the bright-bright beachy sun, we actually didn't get burned this year, hm?]

And I KNOW the ozone layer is thinner (damn flourocarbons!) but consider: maybe sunscreen ain't the answer to warding off skin cancer, just like those pesticidey nets ain't the answer to malaria. At least, instead of worrying about the expiry dates and the possibility of the tubes opening and the subsequent leakage of your sunscreeny products, the FertilityBitch says, why don't you just chuck 'em? Ahhhh, don't you feel better now?

p.s. speaking of burning, aren't you curious what the Burning Man thingie is? I still kind of don't get it. Treehugger thus spake: "From an ecological point of view, Burning Man is a knot of contradictions, melding earth consciousness, self-sustainability, and social harmony with flames, debauchery, and disposable resources." Hm, kinda sounds like this blog, the debauchery and flames and social harmony part, at least.

My (excellent) novelist friend Leonard Chang was there and wrote a very descriptive dispatch of what it's like to be at Burning Man.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What I did on Labor Day: Meeting the Meat

Believe it or not, I was a vegetarian for maybe 15 years. I used to ride and show quarter horses when I was little, and couldn't conscience the thought of eating any of my friends on the farm.

Fast forward to our son's digestive problems and the diet that helps it ever so much: no wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, mercury-loaded fish, peanuts...etc. So after I did a bunch of research on the very healthiest meat possible, we came up with...(drumroll please) grassfed beefalo.

Huh? Whuzzat? Beefalo is part beef part bison. Bison are a bit too wild to farm, in that they don't take kindly to fences. But a buffalo-cow mix keeps a little wildness in the food--helpful in this growing culture of monoculture.

Ted and his son Ted (shown here in stereo) farm their beefaloes with much care and attention on some wide-open acreage in Exeter, RI, where the beefaloes clomp around and eat grass (which Ted fertilizes with chicken poo, as befits the natural nitrogen life cycle), and enjoy whatever outdoor activities beefaloes like to do (Frisbee?).

You can get lots of great info on the advantages of eating and locating grassfed meat on, where we found Ted. Suffice it to say that cows and other ruminants are not meant to eat corn, so when we make them eat it, that's why their tummies hurt and you have to load 'em up with all sorts of antibiotics, which then breeds nasty pathogens like E. Coli, and then on top of that the meat has no beneficial essential fatty acids because that comes from grass (similar to the way fish get it wild from the grass of the sea, i.e., algae, but those sickly colored, later dyed-pink industrially raised salmon thus don't have the EFAs for which you are probably buying it and eating it!)

Not to mention it's fresh-fresh-fresh. Ted gets his beefalo processed at a USDA approved plant and we pick it up, and J loves to eat it raw. I am still haunted by the sad beefalo faces we saw when we visited his farm (and I accept it as my karmic penance), but all our guests rave about our burgers and steaks. Even better, buying it in bulk saves $, so it's really not super duper expensive, and it's always a nice social occasion to see Ted & Ted. (I promised him some kimchi to help ward off bird flu, but alas, no organic cabbage in sight at Whole Foods.)

I just made a bunch of jerky from some raw meat (surprisingly good), and I'm excited to try this easy-to-take-along-meal on our next trip. Stay tuned for a review of our Excalibur Dehydrator, my new favorite toy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blogging Chicks Blogroll

I've always written a lot on women's issues from early on in my career--one of my earliest articles was one for Seventeen Magazine when I was 16, about how my experience at a beauty pageant (gak! Miss Teen USA/Minnesota) turned me into an advocate of mandatory "volunteer" work to help others to let up on the obsession with making sure your teeth has enough vaseline on them**.

** I'm not kidding--people did that to make sure their lips wouldn't stick to their teeth under the bright lights or something like that.

I just joined Blogging Chicks (which has its own Carnival) to expand the woman-thing out a bit further. Obviously you get lots of diversity in a "roll," and of the blogrolls I examined, I found this one particularly intriguing. A random sampling revealed some really neat blogs, and then a bunch, even just their names alone, that aren't my cup of tea politically or otherwise...

...Which is precisely the point. I'm a big fan of keeping an open mind (but not so open that your brain falls out, as they say) and receiving other's views with respect if not intellectual curiousity (dunno why I never hear back from Green GOP, though--I keep going to their site to say hi).

Anyhoo, take a spin and see what you get. Let me know if this roll is helpful or not. Operators are standing by.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Do Not Try at Home: Food on a Stick Diet

My brother told me about, where an intrepid reporter, Morgan-Spurlock (Supersize-this!)-like embarks on a Minnesota-State-fair diet of only eating foods on a stick.

Pictured is a battered and fried reuben on a stick, accompanied by pickle on a stick.

Would have loved to try the macaroni-and-cheese on a stick, dairy and gluten restrictions notwithstanding...

"It's the Fair...If it's tacky, hey, it sells."

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

BBC: Older mums likely to live longer

Older mums likely to live longer: "Women who continue having children late in life may live longer than those who have their kids young, research finds.

Added bonus. A new study in the Journal of European Social Psychology suggests that as you get older, you perceive yourself as better looking! If you're hot now, just think how hot you older moms will be in a few years!

Plus, World's oldest woman dies at 116: Her family said donkey milk might be key to her longevity (note--we're talking, fresh-from-da-donkey's-udder-unpastuerized-unhomegenized-no-donkey-growth-hormone milk, which may indeedy be quite healthful)

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Tell Congress you’re fed up with high gas prices!

Here's a cool automatic letter-generator from our stalwart non-partisan friends at Consumers Union. American families are paying $1000 more annually for gas than in the 1990s (ah, those Clinton years...).

Write a letter--couldn't be easier. Unless you enjoy paying higher gas prices while oil companies make record profits. I just saw a FULL-PAGE ad in the New York Times from an oil company wailing that it's really actually very poor despite the appearance of record profits--do you know how much those ads cost? 'Nuff said.

Okay, okay already, I'm clicking!