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Are Vaccines Proven to be Safe?

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I think this may be my first time writing about vaccines, ever. I don’t like controversy, for one thing. For another, I haven’t read every single study out there, and I haven’t studied immunology or pathology, so I’m not an expert on vaccines. However, I am fairly good at reasoning. And when it comes to scientific research, a person needs to be able to reason.

There is a great reasoning flaw in a statement I keeping reading and hearing over and over in the media. The statement is: “Vaccines are proven to be safe.”

Do you know what that flaw is?

It’s like saying, “She has no fever or rash, and her tongue isn’t coated, so she must be well.”

Or, “I couldn’t find any evidence of him lying, so he must be telling the truth.”

Still don’t see it? How about, “God has been proven not to exist.”

Do you see it? If you believe in God, you probably do. Here’s the thing. You cannot prove the non-existence of something. Right? How could you possibly prove something doesn’t exist?

The girl with no fever, rash or coated tongue could still have been sick. Maybe she had cancer, and you couldn’t tell just by examining her.

Just because you can’t find evidence of lying, it doesn’t mean someone is being truthful. It means they are good at covering up.

And try as you might, you just can’t prove there isn’t a God.

If you still can’t see how this relates to the above statement about vaccines, I will make it a little clearer by rephrasing the statement: “Vaccines have been proven to have no danger, side effects, link to autism, link to cancer, link to autoimmune disease, link to death, etc.”

Basically, it’s saying that something has been proven not to exist.

Well, it does exist. Vaccine injury is a real thing. Technically that can’t be proven, either, but the evidence is there, and evidence is what we look for, is it not? There is even a “Vaccine Court” that awards compensation to families with children injured by vaccines. They’ll fight tooth and nail to avoid giving compensation, but sometimes the cases are just too compelling and they have to admit that a vaccine did, in fact, harm child. There is a vaccine injury table that lists injuries the court will acknowledge and compensate. Some of the injuries included are intussusception, arthritis, paralytic polio, and encephalitis. No, autism isn’t on the list, but the court has awarded for it and other disorders such as seizure disorders when determined they were complications resulting from an injury on the list.

When I was first investigating vaccines–before this crazy vaccine “war” started–I was very open-minded. I was truly looking for truth. I was completely on the fence about vaccines. Actually, originally, I was pro-vaccine. It seemed like common sense to me, and I got all my boosters as an adult, plus the ones recommended for the job I had. I only never got the flu vaccine because I never in my life have had the flu bad enough to think it warranted getting a vaccine. But anyway, I had read something many years prior to having children that made me feel the current vaccine schedule was maybe not the safest, so when I did have my first child, I started my research (which I wish I had started sooner, actually). I, of course, wanted to do what was best for my child, so I read four books on vaccines, two of which were written by MDs, one by an ND, and one by a well-researched mother of two who is anti-vax. The anti-vax book was a little too conspiracy-theorist for me, so I wasn’t sure I could trust its stance on vaccines, but it was the only book I could find that gave advice on how to treat vaccine-preventable diseases. I figured I would want to know how to do that, regardless of whether I vaccinated or not. But I want to show where I was coming from–I believed in vaccines, I believed the government wanted what was best for us and would only recommend what they thought was best for us.

So, while being pro-vaccine, but wanting to vaccinate carefully, and possibly selectively, I studied. And there was just this nagging feeling I kept getting: Just because there is no evidence of danger, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because the currently available studies don’t show proof of vaccines being a contributing cause to autism, diabetes, autoimmune disease, allergies, kidney failure, cancer, etc, it doesn’t mean that link doesn’t exist. It just means it hasn’t been found yet. Maybe they didn’t use the right testing method, you know? Our understanding of how the world works is riddled with holes. We simply do not know everything. New discoveries are being made every day.

So, at that time, several years ago, it was my understanding that there were no scientific studies proving that vaccines had any serious side effects, but that there were associations with several very concerning illnesses.

The three books I read that were written by doctors all took this middle-ground approach. They said, here are the facts, here are the statistics, here is what we know for sure. And in no way was any of that a convincing argument for me to vaccinate my children. The vaccines sounded just as bad, just as risky as the diseases themselves. There seemed to be a small chance my child could end up with a debilitating complication or die from a vaccine-preventable disease, and there seemed to be a small chance my child could end up with a debilitating illness or die from a vaccine! I felt completely on the fence. I wasn’t God, and I couldn’t know if my child was going to somehow contract polio or diphtheria and end up being one of a small percentage whose body can’t fight off the illness well. I also didn’t know if my child would be one that would have a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine. There was no way to know! What I kept wishing for was some sort of screening process to identify risk factors. (This happens to be the premise of the documentary The Greater Good, as well as calling for safer vaccines.)

It’s all the rage these days to say anecdotal evidence is not scientific, so shouldn’t be used in deciding whether or not to vaccinate. That’s true. Anecdotal evidence probably shouldn’t be used to make any serious decision. But anecdotal means it comes from only a few sources.  I’ve read hundreds of firsthand accounts from parents whose children developed autism or died or were injured in some other way soon after being vaccinated. Those hundreds are likely only a very small sampling of the whole group of children who have been severely adversely affected by vaccines. I do not think that is something to just throw out the window. Even scientists will use anecdotal evidence to assist their research efforts. It means, “pay attention to this!” Not, “ignore this.

So, next time someone tells you that vaccines have been proven to be safe, you can just go ahead and tell them to stop being anti-science.

A lot of books on vaccines have come out since I read those first four books, so I think it’s high time I get to reading some of them. A lot more studies have become available (or more-readily available) since then, so I’m going to have a look at those. I may just start with this document, which contains 1000 peer-reviewed reports and studies on vaccines. I love the quotes in the first pages:

“Dissent is crucial for the advancement of science. Disagreement is at the heart of peer review and is important for uncovering unjustified assumptions, flawed methodologies and problematic reasoning.”

I. de Melo-Martin and K. Intemann, Division of Medical Ethics, Department of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, USA

“the harm from vaccines has seriously exceeded the benefit of disease prevention”

Dr. Harold Buttram

“No batch of vaccine can be proved safe before it is given to children”

Surgeon General of the United States, Leonard Scheele, addressing an AMA convention in 1955

“The only safe vaccine is a vaccine that is never used”

Dr. James A. Shannon, National Institutes of Health

Just for the record, I’m not anti-vaccine. I am anti-deception. I am anti-ignorance. And I’m against harming my child. I’m pro-health, I’m pro-knowledge, and I’m pro-freedom of choice.

The Food Allergies

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I know I haven’t posted for months. I have some catching up to do, including sharing about the birth of my sweet baby five months ago! But today my mind is on food allergies.

While I was pregnant, my son’s diet took a backseat. I was just really struggling with being pregnant–the nausea, the food aversions, the fatigue. It was all I could do to feed myself, most days. My son, aged 5 at the time, was not getting the same quality nutrition that he was getting before. I wasn’t soaking grains or keeping up on the kefir. I even hogged up all the raw milk myself, and since my husband would have freaked out if I asked to sign up for more so our son could have some, I gave him pasteurized grassfed milk instead. I felt so horrible about all this. In the meantime he seemed like he kept hitting growth spurts and I knew he was missing valuable nutrition needed to develop optimally. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I swear he face looks longer than it did before. If you know anything about the studies of Weston A Price, you’ll know that wide-set faces are a hallmark of good nutrition and lead to better health. I fear that now my son is even more set for having crowded teeth and poor eyesight (his eyes actually look too big for his face now). I just want to cry about it.

Also during my pregnancy, I noticed he was getting those purple rings under his eyes, which are a hallmark of nutritional deficiencies and allergies. It’s been almost five months since baby was born, and I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things, though not yet back to the same level of quality meals we were previously enjoying. While he has been able to have raw milk again, he’s also been eating plenty of unsoaked grains, store-bought ice cream (organic but still not ideal), and almost no bone broth and organ meat, and kefir has been very off and on. I’m surprised my kefir grains are still alive, actually–I keep throwing them into the fridge because I don’t feel like dealing with them.

Anyway, I had been suspecting a gluten intolerance for a long, long time. I kept allowing him to eat it, though, because it was easy and I needed something easy, and also if he was allergic, he likely needed to keep consuming it in order for it to show up on a test. Finally, after his sixth birthday, I took him to the naturopath/midwife who had delivered my baby for a well-child visit. I explained to her his history of sleep disturbances–never sleeping through the night till he was four, and even then not regularly; night terrors starting in toddlerhood; and more recently, sleepwalking. She told me that sleep disturbances were often the result of food allergies. Having wanted him tested, anyway, I quickly agreed to a test.

Yesterday I got the results. It turns out that he’s not allergic to gluten (yay, no celiac disease!), although he could still be intolerant of it. He is, however, mildly allergic to whole wheat–just not the gluten part. I was sad to find out he is highly allergic to the one “sacred” food that I’m always trying to push on him–eggs. He’s also mildly allergic to milk, which makes me so sad as it was the one very nutritious thing I was able to get him to eat every day. In fact, he tells me he is sad about that–he loves the taste of cow milk. He also has a moderate allergy to peanuts and duck egg, and mild allergy to almonds and cane sugar. Pineapple and amaranth were two random allergies because he’s never had amaranth and rarely eats pineapple. Well, and he only had duck egg once. Everything else on the list were things he consumes very frequently, which makes me suspect it is the result of a leaky gut and being sensitized to foods he is eating a lot. A couple years ago, he saw a homeopath for strep throat, and the doctor told me his immune system needed support and that I should put him on a rotating diet to eliminate and prevent food allergies. I tried to follow this advice in part, by rotating most of our diet–the meats, grains, vegetables and fruit that we eat. I also tried not to have almonds every day, but we have been having quite a bit of almond baked goods lately. However, I ignored the idea of rotating eggs and milk because I really wanted him to have those foods as often as possible for the nutrition. The wheat bread he’s been eating as been purely out of convenience, of course. I would rather he not have had it at all. The cane sugar allergy probably came from all the ice cream we’ve been eating lately–I used to never give it to him. So, I think the homeopath was on the right track about rotating foods–he’s not allergic to any of the foods I’ve been good about rotating.

As I examined the list of food allergies, I couldn’t help but notice that eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts and sugar are all very common foods in the typical American kid’s diet. And typically, one could substitute almond milk for dairy milk, almond butter for peanut butter, and almond flour for wheat flour…but he is allergic to almonds as well! If I was a typical American mom, I think I’d be feeling extremely overwhelmed right now, but I’m not. I’m simply disappointed that he cannot have eggs, and I’m hoping he will accept goat milk and raw cheddar cheese (he wasn’t allergic to cheddar, interestingly) as an alternative to cow milk. There are other “sacred” foods (sacred foods are foods revered by traditional societies for their strong nutritional density) that he can eat, so I know I can focus on getting more of those in his diet. He doesn’t even like eating eggs very much, so I’m almost relieved that I don’t have to give them to him anymore.

I need to focus now on healing his gut and rotating his diet to prevent further allergies. I believe his food allergies can be cured. I’m grateful for my previous experience with the GAPS diet, my awareness of the Body Ecology Diet (both gut-healing diets), my experience in having to avoid common foods, and my knowledge of traditional diets and food preparation. I may have fallen off track with being pregnant and having a new baby, but now I can get back in there and work with my son’s diet and help him achieve better health.


Red Raspberry Leaf Kombucha

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red raspberry leaf kombucha nourishing my life

I’ve just discovered something wonderful and wanted to share.

I figured I’d be drinking my rooibos kombucha throughout pregnancy, as rooibos and ferments both have benefits in pregnancy. However, I had grown tired of the rooibos, and mostly stopped drinking it months ago. And all this time I knew I should be drinking red raspberry leaf tea, which not only is nourishing, but is beneficial for toning the uterus in preparation for childbirth–yet I wasn’t really drinking that, either.

So, I thought, I wonder if I could just combine the two? I do like sweetened red raspberry leaf tea–I just didn’t like making it all the time. But kombucha you can make ahead of time, and it tastes great cold from the fridge. So…I made red raspberry leaf kombucha! I made it just the same way that I make rooibos kombucha.

The result?

Pure delight! I love it. It’s better than regular sweetened red raspberry leaf tea, and it’s better than my rooibos kombucha. It’s better than regular kombucha, too! (To my taste buds, anyway.) I’m going to have no problem drinking my red raspberry leaf tea now! And I’m getting extra probiotics and vitamins to boot, yeah!

To make red raspberry leaf kombucha, you need dried red raspberry leaves, a scoby, about a cup of kombucha to get started, sugar and filtered water. You can follow my recipe for making rooibos kombucha here, and simply substitute the rooibos for red raspberry leaf, making the brew as strong as you like it.

Let me know if you try it! Red raspberry leaf is good for fertility, too!

Note about Ads: If you see an advertisement below this post, know that it is not put there by me and does not benefit me in any way. WordPress used to be ad-free but now I would have to pay $$ to WordPress to have the ads removed. Since I currently make no money from my blog, I cannot afford to do so.

Anti-inflammatory Diet for Pregnancy

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Because of my supposed higher risk for developing preeclampsia during pregnancy, my midwife gave me an anti-inflammatory diet to follow. Preeclampsia, it turns out, is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to the foreign DNA from the baby’s father. Autoimmune diseases can be treated with an anti-inflammatory diet; likewise, such a diet may prevent preeclampsia from developing.

I consider my midwife to be very intelligent and well-educated. She also has a respect for traditional foods. She says she has had good success with using this diet.

Anti-inflammatory Diet for Preventing Preeclampsia

Try to eat only organically grown foods as they reportedly have two to five times more nutrients and it will decrease exposure to pesticides. There is no restriction on the amount of food you can eat. The foods listed are only examples of foods to eat. Try to compose meals of approximately 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fats. Try to eat any one food no more than five times a week. Plan your meals ahead of time and try to find at least ten recipes you enjoy.

Steamed Vegetables

  • The primary reason for using steamed vegetables is that steaming improves the utilization or the availability of the food nutrients allowing the gastrointestinal mucosa to repair itself. Use minimal raw vegetables except as a salad. Include at least one green vegetable a day.
  • Eat a variety of any and all vegetables (except tomatoes and potatoes) that you can tolerate. It is best to try to eat mostly the lower carbohydrate vegetables.
  • Add your favorite spices to enhance the taste of these vegetables [Lisa’s note: And a healthy fat for better absorption of vitamins!]


  • Eat one to two cups of cooked grains per day of those you tolerate, unless you have indications of high insulin levels such as overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
  • Allowed grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, basmati or brown rice, rye, teff.
  • Other grain foods that may be eaten are rice crisps and Wasa crackers.


  • Eat a variety of any legumes that you are able to tolerate. Soak for 48-72 hours and cook slowly: split peas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, fermented soy (tempeh or miso), mung beans, garbanzo beans, adzuki beans. [Lisa’s note: I have read that lectins in legumes are not suitable for an anti-inflammatory diet, so it may just depend on your own body.]


  • Poach, bake, steak or broil: cod, haddock, halibut, mackerel, sardines, summer flounder, wild pacific salmon. Deep sea ocean fish preferred over farmed.
  • No shellfish.


  • Meat only, not the skin. Free range or organically grown chicken and turkey. [Lisa’s note: pastured is best.]
  • Bake, broil or steam.


  • Eat only 1 0r 2 pieces of practically any fruit except citrus. If possible it is preferred to eat the fruit baked. Try to eat mostly lower carbohydrate fruits: cantaloupe, rhubarb, strawberries, melons, apricots, blackberries, cranberries, papaya, peach, plum, raspberries, kiwi, etc.


  • Occasionally maple syrup, rice syrup, barley syrup, raw honey or stevia–use only with meals. [Lisa’s note: some people react to stevia. Also, anecdotally, stevia may increase amniotic fluid. Use with caution.]
  • Absolutely no sugar [doesn’t specify, but I was told no cane sugar or molasses, no corn], no artificial or other sweetener allowed.

Seeds and Nuts

  • Grind flax, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds and add to steamed vegetables, cooked grains, etc. You may also eat nut and seed butters, such as almonds, cashew, sesame, etc.


  • For butter, mix together 1 pound of butter and 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Whip at room temperature and store in refrigerator.
  • Use extra virgin olive oil for all other situations requiring oil. [Lisa’s note: I was surprised coconut oil wasn’t listed, and forgot to ask about it. I think it would be fine, but can’t say for sure.]


  • To add delightful flavor to your food choices add whatever spice you enjoy.

To Drink

  • Drink a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of spring, bottled, filtered or reverse osmosis filtered water every day. Sip the water; try to drink one glass per hour. A few drops of chlorophyll will add a pleasant taste. No distilled water. [Lisa’s note: Personally I would avoid bottled water unless it is spring or filtered, preferably in a glass bottle.]
  • Small amounts of soy, rice, or oat milk are allowed only on cooked grains or in cooking. [Lisa’s note: WAPF does not recommend soy milk.]

For the time being, avoid the following foods:

  • All animal milks and cheeses [Lisa’s note: I do not believe that grassfed raw milk is a problem unless you have a dairy sensitivity.]
  • Commercial eggs (organic or pastured eggs are okay)
  • All wheat products including bread
  • Peanuts/peanut butter
  • Red meat (beef/pork) [was told that pastured/grassfed beef is fine]
  • Any processed foods
  • All caffeinated teas, coffee
  • White flour and corn products
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • All fruit juices
  • All dried fruit
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol

[I thought chocolate was on this list, but apparently it’s not. However, chocolate does contain caffeine and usually sugar. Using cocoa powder with acceptable sweeteners may be acceptable in moderation. WAPF does not recommend chocolate at all, and Wise Woman Herbal During the Childbearing Year does not recommend chocolate when pregnant. I would recommend avoiding or greatly limiting if possible.]

Personal experience: I have been trying to implement this diet for several weeks. While I struggle to do everything listed, my efforts have resulted in feeling less nausea and having more energy. I believe if I followed it perfectly I would have no acid reflux. On a weekend when I was busy going from one event to another and was at the mercy of being fed by other people, my feet and ankles swelled and a couple days later my nausea was back. At the very least, the diet makes me feel better.

30 Weeks: Pregnancy Update

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I thought that when I reached 30 weeks in this pregnancy, I’d be dismayed that there was still so much time to go. It’s felt like forever to get this far, and I’m only 3/4 there. But now that I’m here, 10 weeks left seems like barely enough time to get ready for the big day!

Actually, I knew that was going to happen. I knew I was going to get to the point where I had only a couple months left, and I was going to feel pressed for time…time I need to exercise my body into readiness for the “marathon” ahead…time to step up my diet with super nourishing foods and herbs (morning sickness has made me far from perfect in this area as well as exercise)…time to finish reading the books I want to read…to convince my husband that home birth is not inherently dangerous…to clean and organize the house and buy those baby items I never got with the first baby but wish I had…

ACK. I only have 10 weeks left to do all this???

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about how I’ve been doing, not about me freaking out over the next several weeks. So…how have I been doing?

Well, if you’ve read my other posts, you probably realize that pregnancy is no walk in the park for me. However, I feel compelled to say that this time around is going better than my first. A lot better, in fact. I owe a lot to better dietary habits. I’ve also prayed almost daily for help. And I’ve had my husband, a priesthood holder, give me a few blessings.

It seems pregnancy is a sort of spiritual passage for me. I turn inward and do work there. The rest of the world could be in utter chaos and I could barely care. What I’m doing is too important. This has possibly been my favorite part about being pregnant.

While I’ve been growing spiritually and my belly has grown in size, my health has not been in the best shape ever. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the pregnancy nausea would cause my nutritional reserves to become depleted. In the last month and a half, I’ve had more irritability and some depression. Luckily, my appetite has been better, and I can try to make a come back. It’s clear to me that liver is the one food that would benefit me most right now, as well as cod liver oil, but I still struggle to get enough. I can also see that I need more beef and seafood. My depression actually seems to be the result of a zinc deficiency. As I’ve struggled through this pregnancy, I can really see how beneficial the WAPF diet for pregnant mothers can be, if followed properly. I truly wish I could have followed the diet more fully.

Despite supplementing with high doses of vitamin D, my test results came in low. I could also feel my magnesium supplies were dropping. I decided to finally start using transdermal magnesium in addition to taking it orally. I now take it orally just to keep my bowels moving well, and use the spray on my skin to help with absorption. I am hoping this will help my vitamin D levels go up, too, since magnesium is needed to convert D3 into the form used by the body. I also struggle to keep my iron levels up, though I am sure I wouldn’t have this issue if I ate more greens, beef and liver.

I am having acid reflux issues, though it is not terribly bad. It was much worse last time. I believe that if I ate more correctly, it wouldn’t be an issue. In particular, I need more vegetables, and I really should avoid most types of starches. And definitely sugar and chocolate. I can’t say I’ve been eating horribly…I’m eating so much better than my other pregnancy. I’m trying to stick to WAPF principles as much as I can, but it’s been so hard to eat as well as I want. If only I had a personal chef! I honestly think if someone else could cook for me, I’d be in awesome shape right now.

My midwife put me on an anti-inflammatory diet to help prevent preeclampsia. After I had been trying to stick to the diet for several weeks, my nausea completely went away. I thought it seemed random that it suddenly went away at 6.5 months, but I think possibly I was finally getting better at sticking to the diet, because then after a busy weekend of eating at the mercy of what other people were serving, I got sick again.  I think there may even be a connection between gluten intolerance and my nausea. I had started eating bread again before I got pregnant, and now I’m wondering if perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so sick if I had never started up on bread again. At this point it’s just a theory, but an important one, since women with celiac disease are at risk for more pregnancy complications if they do not stick to a gluten-free diet. I don’t know if I actually have celiac disease (I hope not!), but I think it would be safer at this point to avoid the gluten. I’m not supposed to have it anyway on the diet my midwife gave me.

On the bright side, my proteinuria levels have remained relatively stable the last few months. I’ve been using an essential oil blend over my kidneys daily the last few months. My blood work looked normal for kidney function at the last testing. I’m awaiting the results of my last lab, though it’s been a week and she said she wouldn’t call if everything was normal. My blood pressure has remained steady, reading at around 124/78 or so. I’ve had minimal swelling. The only instances it was bad enough to pay attention to was last weekend when I wasn’t able to eat my normal diet and wasn’t able to put my feet up at all the whole day (my feet and ankles swelled), and then a couple days later when I got sick and vomited (my face swelled and totally freaked me out that I was getting preeclampsia).

I’ve definitely been gaining more weight than I had hoped–32 pounds by 30 weeks, when I was already 20 pounds heavier pre-pregnancy than I was before my other pregnancy. I was hoping that starting heavier would mean I would gain less this time, but I actually seem headed toward gaining more. My two biggest gripes with this is that I’ve outgrown my old maternity clothes and have had to buy new underwear a few times, and that my breasts have gotten so big and heavy that I am no longer comfortable without a bra on, and I am definitely not comfortable wearing a bra, either, so I just get to be uncomfortable all the time (as if wearing a bowling ball in my abdomen wasn’t uncomfortable enough). I seriously want smaller breasts again SO BAD. Good thing they will only get bigger when my milk comes in, huh?

Oh, and I’ve also had sleep problems. When my son started school, I had such a difficult time adjusting to the earlier schedule that I felt like I was dying after the first couple of days. After trying several natural remedies, I finally resorted to taking Unisom. Unisom and B6 together have the added benefit of reducing morning sickness. I so, so, so did not want to resort to drugs, but thankfully this one is considered very safe in pregnancy (doesn’t mean I completely trust it, of course). Sleep was just too important and so was being able to keep food down and eat a little better. But after two months I was determined to get off of it. It was not easy, and I think I should write a post just on all the sleep remedies I’ve had to use! But off of it I am.

So, that’s my long-winded version of how I’m doing. I’m still working on that morning sickness remedy post. It seems the longer I wait to post it, the more remedies I find. I think I may end up with the most comprehensive list of morning sickness remedies on the Internet! So stay tuned…I’ll get it posted eventually!!

Is Real Foodism Really to Blame for Orthorexia?

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Concerns about orthorexia are storming through the health diet world. Or should I say anti-diet world? Is it something you should be concerned about? If you are trying to improve your health by changing the food you eat, then I would say you should at least be aware of it. Especially if you have perfectionistic tendencies and a lot of willpower.

Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthful.It was introduced in 1997 by Steven Bratman, M.D., to be used as a parallel with other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa. Orthorexia is not mentioned in the widely used DSM, but was coined by Bratman who claims that in rare cases, this focus may turn into a fixation so extreme that it can lead to severe malnutrition or even death. Even in less severe cases, the attempt to follow a diet that cannot provide adequate nourishment is said to lower self-esteem as the orthorexics blame themselves rather than their diets for their constant hunger and the resulting cravings for forbidden foods.” (Wikipedia)

This topic has been on my mind lately, ever since I was irked by an article I read that claims “All food is real food” and blames real foodists for causing orthorexia in people. I am an advocate of eating real foods (which I define as anything that comes from nature), but I am also an advocate of listening to one’s body and not tying in guilt and perfectionism with eating. But after reading the article, I felt villainized.

First off, I don’t think we can blame people for advocating “natural” foods, “real” foods, or “traditional” foods. Heck, I don’t think we should blame anyone for advocating eating anything (unless someone is just trying to make money and doesn’t care who they hurt). The problem is when we start referring to foods as “poisonous” and “harmful.” It’s true I believe that pesticides, MSG, and other food additives are harmful. And I’m not trusting of GMOs and other foods that require a chemistry lab to make. And I believe that our ancestors used their instincts and biofeedback to figure out that foods are more nutritious prepared certain ways (known as traditional food preparation). But you won’t hear me calling actual food poison, and I prefer to focus on improving one’s diet by adding nourishing foods, rather than restricting so-called “bad” foods. In this way, a person should not feel restricted by their diet, nor be made afraid of food. They certainly should not become malnourished. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong here, and I suppose I have a problem with villainizing anyone who is only trying to help people eat better. It seems even a little hypocritical to me to villainize special diets and their advocates, when you have a problem with people villainizing food. Can’t we just educate each other without attacking one another?

Another problem I see with blaming real foodists for orthorexia is that real food isn’t at fault here (again, by real food I simply mean food that comes from nature). You see, this condition wouldn’t even exist (at least not in the numbers we see today) if it weren’t for the “displacing foods of modern commerce,” as Dr Weston A Price called it. The whole reason people have come up with all these different restrictive health diets is because of the effect this modern food has had on us. Eating too much devitalized and artificial food can cause a person to become malnourished and even overweight. People become tired of feeling sick, fatigued or fat, so instead of eating food in a “normal” way, they seek to improve their health by changing their diet.

One of the first promoters of these “special diets” is actually the USDA. The USDA used to tell people to eat a bunch of sugar. Then they told people to stop eating saturated fat. Then we were supposed to reduce all kinds of fat. We were told to eat lots of grain instead. I think it’s actually kind of okay to villainize the USDA because a lot of their recommendations seem to correlate with things not pertaining to health at all. Such as money. However, there are many followup groups who have been much more well-meaning.

Real food, natural food, traditional food–that’s what we humans used to all eat. We didn’t have to think too much about it. Just about everything we ate was nourishing. Most people got a good amount of exercise as part of their daily routine. They ate what was available and they ate till they were satisfied, and that was that. People didn’t have to start thinking so hard about food until industrial foods showed up, displacing more nourishing foods, and food and nutrition scientists starting giving out their special recommendations, which were all too often to avoid certain nourishing foods and instead eat more of the foods that weren’t so nourishing.

So now we have the push-back diets. We have calorie-restricted diets and food group-restricted diets. We have the diets that propose getting rid of the foods that caused this obsession with food in the first place–man-made, artificial, devitalized foods. And people who have had their health damaged by eating a typical American diet flock to these special diets in hope of improved health. The problem with these diets is not the diets themselves, but the attitude surrounding them. The idea that this is the magic diet that will cure you of what ails you, and that if you aren’t getting better, then you aren’t doing it well enough. This is how people become malnourished on vegan diets and even the nutrient-dense paleo and GAPS diets. People become so focused on eating only what’s on the diet, that they may miss their body’s biofeedback that is saying, “I don’t feel well!” “I’m hungry!” “I need meat!” “I need carbs!” “I need fat!” “I need more food!!!” or whatever it may be. It’s all too easy to become malnourished on a calorie-restricted diet, of course.

I don’t see anything in particular that is wrong with a traditional foods diet. First of all, before industrialized foods come on the market, people thrived on these foods. No food groups are restricted. You aren’t limited to a certain amount of calories or carbs or fat or protein or anything like that. But I can see people becoming too perfectionist about it. It does take time to learn and integrate the traditional food preparation techniques. And it’s totally not a normal thing in our society to always be soaking grains and nuts and seeds, and fermenting things and going to the trouble of sourcing the highest quality foods you can afford. It really can seem obsessive when nobody does that anymore. And it really can become obsessive if you are prone to perfectionism.

Many of us have learned to avoid certain foods because they make us feel sick. That is normal. But many are avoiding certain foods because they heard something bad about them and fear cancer or diabetes or some other disease. That’s not listening to biofeedback. That’s listening to fear. When you become afraid to eat too many foods, it becomes more and more difficult to eat. Eating should not be difficult, unless you have actual health issues that make it so. I can only imagine what the person with multiple food allergies thinks of the person who restricts themselves of their own free will and choice. Madness??

Honestly, I hate that we should even have to think about food so much. I hate that our food has become mutilated by science. I wish all the food was natural food. I wish we never lost the wisdom of our ancestors. I wish everyone could just eat food and enjoy it without having to worry what the consequences may be. It’s not normal to be obsessed with food or to avoid eating things that taste good. But keeping our health intact in this world of processed foods does take a little savvy. I think we just have to find a balance. We need to incorporate what nourishing foods we can into our diets, try to keep it reasonably balanced, listen to our bodies, and then just not freak out if you can’t do it all perfectly. Food is meant to be enjoyed and to nourish our bodies.

Not everyone who veers away from junk food is going to develop orthorexia. In fact, many people see not only improved physical health but improved mental health when they switch to real foods. Many people are even cured of orthorexia by doing this. I know that before I switched to real foods and then traditional foods, I was constantly trying to eat better, failing, feeling guilty, trying harder, feeling like crap and was definitely malnourished. Just incorporating more nourishing foods into my diet has cured all this.

But let me tell you something. I don’t soak peanuts and make my own peanut butter. The sourdough bread I eat is made from white flour and bought at the store. I eat white rice because it’s easier than soaking brown rice. I eat my mom’s chocolate fudge made with Jiffy marshmallow cream every Christmas. When I eat out, I eat food that has canola oil in it because that’s what is available. Since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve actually increased my cane sugar consumption because I need the calories and carbohydrates and I tolerate the sugar better than other high carbohydrate foods, and the convenient, ready-made store-bought foods don’t use maple syrup and raw honey, gosh darn it! Some of these things I eat because I enjoy them, some because I just don’t have the time to do every dang thing from scratch, some because I lack the experience to make it myself, some because I’m simply hungry and just need to eat. I don’t feel guilty, I don’t feel that I’m weak or that I should be doing better. I feel like I’m taking good care of myself by not trying to be perfect.

I’m not going to apologize for advocating real foods and teaching people about traditional foods. The whole point is to better nourish ourselves, and there is nothing wrong with that. But please, do be responsible for yourself and try to keep some balance in your eating habits and in life in general. Let food be a source of enjoyment in your life, and give yourself permission to eat what you want.

I’m Still Here!

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I haven’t posted anything in months, but I assure you, this blog has been alive and well in my head. Being pregnant really takes a toll on me. It’s been all I can do to eat and sleep enough. Actually, I never feel like I eat or sleep enough. It’s pretty exhausting.

I’m 25 weeks pregnant now. I feel the baby kicking daily. My food aversions aren’t quite so bad. I only vomit about once a week now, if that. I keep thinking how much easier this would be if I had a nanny, or a cook, or even just someone to clean up the kitchen every day. If I could just sleep and eat well every day, I might actually have enough energy to enjoy being pregnant. But such is not the case.

Instead, I think of all this stuff I want to write, yet never have the time/energy for (technically I should either be eating or sleeping right now). I lament how gross my house is getting, knowing that I will have to clean it up at some point if I want to have a baby here. I’d like to get some clutter out of the house and organize things, too. It irks me when people tell me to take advantage of my second trimester because pretty soon I’ll have no energy. Yep, my second trimester ends in about two weeks. Pretty soon, I get to have even less energy!

Despite all this, this pregnancy is going better than my first did. I’m so super grateful to understand what foods I need to nourish my body and my baby, even if I’m having a hard time get enough of them. It’s still better than how I ate last time. And I’m so very much looking forward to when I’m no longer pregnant and can eat better. I feel confident that I will bounce back after this pregnancy without too much difficulty.

I continue to see my wonderful midwife, so grateful to have her. Things would just be so awful if I was seeing a perinatologist again, or even a hospital midwife. I’ve learned there can be a big difference between hospital midwives and home birth midwives. My midwife used to work at the hospital I had my son at. She knows what goes on there. Oh, by the way, Birth Matters is a really good book.

I just wanted to write a quick update. I have a few posts in the queue that hopefully I can finish up in the near future, but I’m not really expecting to write a lot here for some time. Just too much to do at home, and so little time to do it in!

I’m so looking forward to meeting my baby. And so grateful for an understanding five-year-old boy. And, never thought I’d say this, but I’m thankful for public school, too, for keeping my son occupied for three hours each weekday morning–for free! Life can be good, even when you feel crummy.🙂

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