Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Curing a sinus infection naturally

I haven't featured a lot of natural remedies on this blog because *toot my own horn* I don't really get sick much.  When I do, I usually do absolutely nothing and just ride it out.  However, this year, I have had a cold several times.  I blame the toddler.  This past cold has lasted in some form or another, seven weeks now.  I was sick (achy, congested, sneezy, lethargic) for about two days and then I had congested sinuses pretty much every night for the next five weeks, until it came to a head again about two weeks ago with sever congestion, sneezing, and otherwise utter sinus misery.  My nose was so stuffy I thought I might suffocate.  Unfortunately, congestion is REALLY hard to get rid of naturally.  If I wasn't nursing I might have just taken a Benadryl and called it a day.  Even if I didn't avoid chemical medication, decongestants have always given me terrible side effects including restlessness, out of body experiences and feeling just plain high.  Decongestants are absolutely not safe for pregnant and nursing moms.  I finally decided that I must have a sinus infection (though I don't know for sure).  After all, you can't be stuffy for two weeks and not have it worsen.  Once I figured out to treat an infection instead of just the symptoms, I started to get better.

Here's what works and what doesn't for me.  Any number of these remedies might work for you depending on the severity and the cause of your congestion.

For congestion:

Worked for me:
Boil a pot of water and remove it from the stove.  Add 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil.  Cover your head and pot with a towel and inhale (as much as you can).  You will need to inhale for 5 to 10 minutes.  This helped, but only for 10 or 15 minutes, then the congestion was back.

Didn't work for me (but may for other types of congestion):
- Neti Pot - this is great if you have allergies and need to flush something out of your nose.  It is also good to use if you have a sinus infection to keep the mucus moving.
- Stinging Nettle - this only works if you have a true allergy.  Take capsules or drink tea.  Can be taken regularly through allergy season to avoid allergy flare ups.
- Bamboo Extract - I have no idea what this was supposed to do, but I went to my herbalist in a state of desperation asking for something that will "clear my nose and do it TODAY." I choked up the $42 and took it for 3 days and it did nothing to clear my congestion  Maybe it would help to get over the cold, but I don't know.  Bamboo extract should not be taken during pregnancy. 
- Saline Spray - Good for "light" congestion associated with pregnancy or allergies.  Doesn't help for inflamed sinus passages like I have.

For the infection:
Grapefruit Seed Extract - This is really the only treatment I have tried that has given me relief.  GSE is a strong natural antibiotic and works really well against fungus also.  You can buy a spray from NutriBiotics that is a GSE spray, or you can make your own by adding 2 oz of distilled water and 3 drops of GSE to an eye dropper.  Tilt your head back and drop a whole eye dropper full into each nostril and swing your head forward so that it is upside down.  Hold like this for 20 or 30 seconds for it to fill your sinuses.  Bring your head back to upright and let it drain and blow your nose gently.  Obviously, the pre-made nasal spray is going to be easier.  Do this every hour or as close to every hour as possible for a week.  I know it sounds like a lot, but it depends on how desperate you are to avoid antibiotics.  I didn't start doing this until just Saturday, and my nose finally started to clear (at least during the day) by Monday.  It isn't fast, but it works.  If I would have started the GSE nasal spray weeks ago, I bet I wouldn't be going through this now.

Another GSE option is to use it in a Neti Pot.  Add 2 or 3 drops to your pot and flush.  Do this every hour.

I also think you should take GSE internally.  You can get capsules or take the liquid in some sort of beverage.  It tastes terrible so you need a strong beverage (perhaps some decaf coffee).  Take this several times a day.

General tips
- Avoid dairy like the plague.  Dairy thickens your mucus and it will make you so much more miserable.  I know, I ate frozen yogurt one night and the congestion was instantly magnified.
- Take something to thin your mucus.  Fenugreek thins mucus and moves it out of the body (not to be used during pregnancy, but is great while lactating).  Warm lemon water or apple cider vinegar does too.  Squeeze a whole lemon into 8 oz of water.  Sweeten with stevia and drink regularly.  Or add 2 tbspns of ACV to 8 oz of water and drink.  I didn't do the ACV, but I've read it thins mucus quite well.  You need your mucus thin and watery not thick, slimy, and green.
- Drink lots of water.  That will thin your mucus too.
- Avoid sugar.  Sugar weakens your immune system and if you have an infection, sugar will feed it.
- Take an immune booster.  Astragulus or Black Elderberry, and always take Vitamin C.  Echinacea is a good option too.

Internal infections are really hard to get rid of naturally.  You'll have to really be persistent and throw some good stuff at it.  But it can be done.  I'm still trying to get rid of mine, and I've been taking the GSE for 5 days now.  If you know of any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who's "still" nursing?

Well, here it is.  The cover of Time Magazine for May 2012.   I'd say its a pretty great cover considering the point of a magazine cover is to draw attention, and boy, has it.  A thin model-like woman breast feeding a nearly four year old boy.  Of course they chose a pretty young woman and of course they chose a pretty young woman with a child that looks more man than child.  And of course they are in a position that one would never use to breast feed a child so we can all see exactly how big the boy is.  I do appreciate TIME magazine covering extended breast feeding and am glad that it is getting publicity, but they could have done a better job if they really wanted to.  But they didn't really want to, they wanted to shock.  

I absolutely believe that extended breast feeding (breast feeding beyond the age of one year) should be seen as normal and should be talked about but I really think TIME missed the mark on this one.  I believe this is a step back.  This is not going to make anyone see that breast feeding a nearly four year old is normal or natural.  There is not much natural about the picture to begin with.  Here are some pictures that I think better deserve a cover of a magazine and an article on parenting.

this child is also three

The only way we Americans are going to see "awkward" things as normal, natural, and beautiful is to be exposed to them in positive, reassuring ways.  If you talk to a mom who breast fed her children into toddlerhood or beyond and talks positively about it, you are likely going to think good thoughts about that situation.  Myself for example, I always knew I wanted to breast feed my child beyond infancy because I was breast fed until I was two and a half.  My mom always talked about it in a joyful way, telling me that she enjoyed it and I know how healthy I am and how healthy she is partially because of breast feeding, so I knew I wanted to do it too.  We need to encourage one another in our abilities and choices.  Not make it into a competition or laughing stock (thank you, Saturday Night Live).

Which leads me to the subtitle.  Why is it that here in America we have to make everything out to be a competition?  The subtitle says "Are you mom enough?"  I never knew I could be more of a mom than someone else.  Either you are a mom or you are not, there are not degrees of motherhood.  And just because the skinny blonde can breast feed till almost four years old does not mean that everyone can or will.  If you breast feed till four, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed till two, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed for one year, that is great!  Good for you!  And if you bottle feed because you or your child needs it, that is great!  Good for you!  Making someone feel inadequate or making it into a competition where you measure yourself up to what everyone else is doing is a big step backward.

The cover also says "Why Attachment Parenting drives some mothers to extremes.."  Which is a condemnation of extended breast feeding in my opinion.  It is saying that anyone who breast feeds till three or four years old is "extreme".  Maybe it is here, but it really isn't that extreme in other parts of the world.  Why also do we have to follow some method of parenting to "extremes" anyway?  Can we not think for ourselves?  We have to have Dr. Sears or the Ezzos or Ferber telling us what to do with our child every moment of the day?  Why can't we do what is natural to us and what makes sense for our family?  Why do we so often do things just because our friend told us to, or not to, or because Grandma told us to, or not to, or because some author who doesn't know me told me to, or not to?  I think if we take a step back and start looking at parenting truly as family centered (what is best for MY family, regardless of what my neighbor does) then we would have a lot more happy parents and children, and we would have a whole lot more peace about our personal decisions.

Lots of moms all over the world are still nursing, or nursing for the first time, or nursing for the last time. More people than we know are still nursing because they only nurse at home and don't talk about it for fear their friends and strangers will think they are weird.  But it isn't weird, its just weird to our culture.  I was recently called a "third world country mama" teasingly by a friend who found out I am "still" nursing.  Yet there are many other cultures, not just third-world cultures that nurse way longer than Americans do.  Most Europeans wouldn't bat an eye at a two year old nursing.  Maybe we will catch up some day, then we will start having some more positive experiences to share of people who are "still" nursing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Strawberry Cake

One of our favorite spring time activities is picking strawberries at the local strawberry farm. Rows and rows of sun warmed fresh strawberries; one for my mouth, one for the bucket. My little strawberry picker was great at it! She knew to pick only the red ones and she loved to eat all she could. The local U-pick places don't like to use pesticides because they cost money, so they generally do not use chemicals unless they think they might lose the crop. That way we know we can eat strawberries off the plant and we don't really worry about chemicals that non-organic strawberries hold from the grocery store.

Because we ended up with two gallon buckets full, I had to figure out a way to use them fast. We froze one bucket, but the bucket we kept fresh went bad pretty fast. So I whipped up this great strawberry cake. When you google search "Strawberry Cake Recipe" you find that those deep red southern favorite cakes start with "white cake mix" and "strawberry flavored gelatin". While this cake isn't near as pretty as those cakes, and is lacking frosting, it certainly isn't lacking sweet deliciousness! It is so moist and so good. I could eat the whole thing myself.

Strawberry Cake

I used fragrant coconut oil instead of butter and let me tell you, it is fabulous! Seriously consider trading your butter in this recipe. Also, I cooked it less than the 1 hour it calls for - a lot less actually, because I cooked it in a toaster oven which cooks faster. But the middle of my cake is pretty gooey (not raw) and I like it that way, so play with the time you cook it. Cook it a little less if you want a softer cake. Also, you could use any berry in this recipe. I'm going to try it with blueberries in the summer.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, or coconut oil, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.

Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.