Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! May you find great joy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

rBGH - the bovine growth hormone

This article on the bovine growth hormone rBGH is a MUST read.
Raging Hormones?

"15% of American girls are expected to begin puberty by the age of 7 (with the number closer to 25% for African American girls)"
Age 7. I can't believe this. It is sad and abnormal. This is not how we were created.

"Although the product [rBGH] is made in a lab, it’s designed to mimic a hormone that’s naturally produced in a cow’s pituitary glands. It’s injected into cows every two weeks to boost their hormonal activity, causing them to produce an additional 10 to 15 percent more milk, or about one extra gallon each day. And within the first four years of its introduction in 1994, about one-third of the nation’s cows were in herds being treated with this growth hormone."

"Canada isn’t the only country to bar rBGH. The genetically altered hormone has also been banned in the European Union, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, the U.N. agency that sets food safety standards, Codex Alimentarius, has refused to approve rGBH not just once but twice."
Are all these other countries just not taking advantage of a good thing? Not likely. It seems America is the one missing the boat.

"In case you think that the rising cancer rates have something to do with genetics, stop and think again. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, 1 in 8 women now have breast cancer. But only 10 percent of those cases can be linked to genetics. In other words, 90 percent of breast cancers being diagnosed today are being triggered by factors in our environment."
I think a lot of people do believe cancer is mostly genetics and there is nothing you can do about it. Cancer IS on the rise, its not just diagnosed better, there is simply more of it. There IS a reason why.

Much more good information in the article. Including what rBGH does to the cow. This is another example of money above health in today's food industry.

More of my posts on cow's milk:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Induction, duction, Whats your function?

If you know me, or read my blog, you are pretty well aware that I whole heartedly support and love natural birth. When I say "natural" I mean no pain medications and no induced labor - unmedicated childbirth. But many may not be aware of why I'm so pro-natural birth and so against unneeded interventions.

Please know that I believe medical advances, technologies, procedures, and interventions have their place and can save lives. However, these procedures and drugs are so grossly overused, that in the case of normal birth, it is not only not helping, but is harmful.

Every method of induction has its fair share of problems because each method forces your body into labor before it is ready and forces your baby to come before it is ready. I don't care if a woman is at 40 weeks. If she isn't in labor, then her body or her baby isn't ready. "Full Term" is defined to be between 37 and 42 weeks. In fact, a 1999 Harvard Study showed that the average gestational period for a first time mom was 41 Weeks and 1 Day. They recommended the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) change their full term guidelines to reflect the findings. The current due date of 40 weeks was found by an obstetrician in the 1800's based on his observations. New research demands a change, but ACOG did not change their guidelines. Due dates are more accurately "guess dates". A due date is calculated to be exactly 40 weeks after the first day of a woman's last period. This has nothing to do with ovulation or conception. It is assumed that all women ovulate on day 14, but this is blatantly untrue. Due date guesses can be off by days or even a week or two.

In this Time Magazine article, it states that a baby's brain at 35 weeks is only 2/3 the size of what it will be at 39 or 40 weeks. It also states that Babies born early for no medical reason spend more time in intensive care and spend more time on ventilators than full-term babies. A study published in the July issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that among more than 7,800 women giving birth for the first time, those whose labor was induced were twice as likely to have a C-section delivery as those who experienced spontaneous labor. In short, induction sets you up for a C-section and for a baby born in poor health who might spend the first few days of her life in the NICU instead of her mother's arms.

Induction comes in a variety of forms, both natural and unnatural. Natural labor inducers include various herbs, castor oil, and acupressure. (If you are interested in these, please ask a health care provider or herbalist.) Most of the time, natural labor inducers will only work if both baby and the mother's body are ready. Unnatural induction methods include breaking of water, stripping membranes, and the most well known drug, Pitocin.

Breaking the water of a woman who is not in labor (an amniotomy) causes several mechanical problems. The water provides a cushion for the baby. This allows the baby movement and stability to wiggle and move into an appropriate position for birth. A baby is often still moving into position during labor. Removing this cushion prevents the baby from freely moving, and often causes the baby to get stuck in a less than optimal position causing prolonged, difficult labor and birth, or even a C-section. Another problem is if the baby is not fully engaged in the birth canal and in a proper position, the umbilical cord could rush out with the water causing cord prolapse, an immediate life threatening condition for the baby, resulting in a C-section. Also, breaking the water causes labor to come on hard and fast, often putting a baby in fetal distress. Finally, breaking the water puts the woman "on the clock". Hospitals have a strict policy on how long a labor can last after water is broken because of the risk of infection. The fact that hospitals also perform many vaginal checks increases that risk. In short, breaking the water early sets a woman up for a C-section and should not be done unless there is a very good reason.

The most famous and seemingly favorite induction method these days is Pitocin. Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone secreted from the pituitary gland in small amounts during (not before) normal labor. Pitocin is given in doses far greater than which is naturally secreted. This extra dose often causes fetal distress and doubles the chance of babies being born in poor condition caused by too strong uterine contractions. These too strong contractions can interfere with the flow of oxygen-rich blood from mother to baby. It also increases the chance of postpartum hemorrhage and uterine rupture. A 2007 study published in "BMC Neuroscience" conducted at the University of Memphis showed that pitocin administered at birth can create changes in a baby's central nervous system that will only show up as the baby grows (the study was done on rodents). I am also not convinced that Pitocin does not have long term effects on both baby and mother. Who knows if given a bovine derived hormone causes cancer or other problems later in life? It would be near impossible to trace since there would be too many factors. Pitocin is used so routinely these days, to start labor, to speed up a labor that the hospital has deemed too slow, and to hurry up and deliver the placenta so the doctor doesn't have to wait 20 minutes. It also doesn't always work. If the cervix is not ripe enough, the induction could fail. The hospital used to send mothers home and try again in a few days. Now, it may get you an instant C-section, and label the baby as "stubborn". Furthermore, Pitocin is not even FDA approved for elective inductions.

The most common reasons I hear for induction are a) "because its time" i.e. the mother is impatient because she is nearing her due date and b) "so I can have my doctor" Neither of these reasons are good enough to chance the dangers and side effects of induction. Most inductions are for convenience for the mother, the doctor, or both, but I think all would agree that having your precious newborn in the NICU is neither convenient nor desired. In short, the benefits must outweigh the risks, and this would only be the case in a medical necessity.

The above are all the physical problems with induction, but I also want to talk about the spiritual. In Job 39, God says specifically that he counts the months until the mountain goat and the doe bears her young. He knows and is there when she gives birth. If He does that for a goat, how much more do you think He cares for you? He has a perfect day and time for each baby to be born, which may or may not correspond with a "due" date. If you are 40 weeks pregnant, I promise God did not forget about you. I promise you will not be pregnant forever. It may become necessary to use medical means, and God may use those means for a specific teaching opportunity, but more than likely the baby and your body are simply not ready yet. Just because we have drugs does not make permission to use them willy-nilly. I've never known the Lord to be OK with taking matters into our own hands purely out of convenience and selfishness. How much better is it to wait on the Lord's timing than to decide things for ourselves? We wait on the Lord patiently for so many things. Something as important as birth should be a top priority.

My hope and prayer is that each woman does her own research, studies for her birth, and stands up for her wishes and rights. If all your research is done in the doctor's office, you are only getting one biased opinion. Today's society and culture especially in America is all about what is convenient and fast. From fast food to birth, we seem to think the more we can manage, the better we will be. The fear of the unknown drives many women to try to manage birth, but labor is one thing that refuses to be managed. Reading, studying, and praying will overcome these fears and grow a confident birther. I know that I was whole heartedly prepared for the birth of my daughter, so I was never afraid and never felt out of control. I only trusted the One who was in control.

Gaskin, Ina May. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Bantam Dell, 2003.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Sweet Potato Pot Pie

I love, love, love (love, love) pot pie, but have not had one since going vegetarian years ago. I've seen this recipe before at 101 Cookbooks, but never made it since it calls for puff pastry and milk. Puff pastry was never on my grocery list as it contains enriched bleached flour and tons of butter. But one day I wanted a pot pie enough that I thought "What the heck?" Finding puff pastry to be near $4, I decided to forgo the pastry and make a pie crust instead for the topping out of whole wheat pastry flour, butter, and just a bit of vegetable shortening.

It was AMAZING, if I do say so myself. The sweet potatoes and corn blended to make a delightfully sweet, rich and creamy pot pie. Comfort food, for sure. I'm going to make this one over and over again.

The original puff pastry recipe is here. Below is my recipe, with the pie crust topping, and added black beans for protein.

For my carnivorous friends, feel free to add diced cooked chicken to the recipe. I bet that would work well.

Sweet Potato Pot Pie

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 to 3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies (or more to taste)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
1 cup black beans (canned is fine)
2 cups cold low-fat milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pie crust (recipe below)
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil, onion, garlic, sweet potato and salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the adobo sauce, black beans, and corn.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and cornstarch, then pour the mixture into the sweet potato pot. Leave the heat at medium-high for a few minutes to bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the filling starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with more salt to taste. Pour the filling into an ovenproof bowl or casserole dish.

Place the pie crust over the filling. Brush the dough lightly with egg white (this creates a golden crust).

Using a fork, poke a few holes in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape, and bake until the crust is deeply golden, about 15 minutes. Tip: Bake the potpie on a baking sheet lined with foil in case some of the filling bubbles over.

Basic Pastry Dough
This is adapted from my Mom's famous pie crust - made more healthy (sorry Mom!) I use whole wheat pastry flour and mostly butter instead of all shortening

For a single crust pie or a tart

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or AP flour)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingers or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea sized) lumps of butter. For a single crust pie or tart, drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring or pulsing until incorporated. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough into a ball and shape into a flattened round on a lightly floured surface. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated for an hour or a day.) Roll dough 2" larger than inverted pan. Pastry is ready to use as desired.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Got Stains?

I've always known the sun was a powerful stain remover, but I was wowed this week.

As a teenager, I had white athletic shoes that we would wash in the washing machine, rub salt all over them while still wet and set them in the sun. When dry, they came out so white I thought I was going blind!

Fast forward, and we use the sun to get poopy stains out of our cloth diapers. We hang them out on a line to save on energy drying them, but the sun removes ALL the stains. No matter how yellow, no matter how old.

Recently we purchased a cute bowl with a suction cup on the bottom for Mary Abilene's foods. We put tomato based vegetable soup in it and it got the dreaded tomato stain on the suction cup. I scrubbed, I vinegared, but to no avail. Then it dawned on me - why couldn't the sun remove this stain too? Laid it out there, and POOF! No more tomato stain!

I find myself looking around the house for things I can set out in the sun. The blade of my food processor is stained yellow from turmeric. Out in the sun it goes!!

The before and after of my food processor blade

I just love it! I knew of the sun's ability to remove stains from clothes, but plastic!? Amazing! Look around at your own house. Challenge the sun for all of your stains. You'll soon find that bleach and other stain removers will have no place in your cleaning repertoire.