Category Archives: Naturally Healthy

Naturally Regular: The Scoop on Poop

I don’t remember how the conversation about bowel movements started.  It was one holiday or some family event.  I do remember my sister, Denise, arching an eyebrow at me and saying:

“You’re a vegetarian.  You must be like a goose now.”

“I don’t know if I am as loose as goose but I’m good for about a three day.”

“What!  That’s too much.  That’s not normal!” exclaimed another family member, whom I am sure would prefer to have her identity remain private.

“How often do you poop?” I asked.

“Once every five days or so,” she said.

I am not sure if I said anything at the time but that sounded a little constipated to me… Turns out, there is no normal range of exactly how often one should move their bowels.

The major determinate of whether your bowel movements are regular is, well, what comes out.  Guess what?  There is a chart for that!  It’s called the Bristol Stool Chart.  (Go ahead, Google it right now… I’ll wait.)  There are seven types of stools, ranging from Type 1, separate hard lumps, to Type 7, completely fluid.  The normal range is Type 3, resembling a cracked sausage and Type 4, looking like a smooth, soft snake.  So, if your poo is too hard or too soft, you’ve got work to do!

What to do if you are on the low end of the chart:

  • Drink more water.
  • Get more fiber in your diet like fruit, veggies, greens, seeds (like chia and pumpkin seeds!) whole grains and legumes.  (Special shout-out to my dad, Hank Lenz, who is a long-time proponent of psyllium husks!)
  • Eat less meat.  Animal fat is a lot harder to digest and will hang around, putrefying in your bowels until some nice leafy green or grain brushes it through.
  •  Get regular exercise.  Moving your body will make everything work better including your bowels.  Yoga and stretching can be especially effective for helping with digestive issues.
  • Try a probiotic.  Probiotics will help restore the digestive flora in your gut. Gut flora can be compromised by illness, poor nutrition or even medication like an antibiotic.
  • Avoid commercial laxatives if possible.  Chemical laxatives and stool softeners will weaken your peristaltic muscles, making it more difficult for your body to evacuate on its own the longer you use them.
  • Change your position.  Technically, it’s better to squat than sit when moving the bowels.  If you find that you are straining, it’s advisable to get your knees up higher than your waist and lean forward.  You can keep a stool or squatty potty near the toilet for this purpose.  If you are feeling exceptionally limber, go ahead and squat right on the toilet by drawing your knees up and placing your feet on the seat.

What to do if you are on the high end of the chart:

  • Drink water.  Although, it seems counter-intuitive at that moment, it’s important to keep your fluids up especially if you have diarrhea.  You are losing fluids quickly and they must be replaced or you risk becoming dehydrated.
  • Avoid meat and dairy.
  • Follow a BRAT diet if you have diarrhea until your condition improves.  BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
  • Charcoal capsules can also be used for diarrhea to absorb toxins and excess fluid.
  • Rest! Diarrhea maybe a symptom of food poisoning or infection.  So, it is important give your body time to heal itself.  (You’re probably not going to want to stray too far from the bathroom anyway!)
  • Eat pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix!!!) Pumpkin flesh is great for diarrhea because it contains electrolytes, potassium and soluble dietary fiber.  (By the way pumpkin is also excellent to give your canine buddy if he or she has diarrhea.)
  • Diarrhea can also be the body’s last-ditch effort to deal with constipation, by liquifying the contents of your colon in a “blazing lights and siren” emergency sort of way.  So, if you find you tend to get diarrhea after a bout of constipation, take a look at the first set of suggestions above.

Make sure that if you are on either extreme of the chart for an extended period of time, you get examined by a qualified healthcare professional.  Diarrhea and constipation can be indicators of a serious illness and should not be ignored.  Diarrhea can cause dehydration.  Prolonged constipation can lead to fecal impaction.  Contact your health care provider if you notice blood or abnormal colors in your stool.   Similarly, if your stool has an unusually foul odor, you also want to get that checked out.

Do be sure to give your excrement at least a once-over before you flush!  It’s an excellent indication of what is going on with your health in general.

Many blessings to all,

 

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Resourceful: Getting Scrappy with Vegetables!

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows I’m a vegetarian. When you eat a lot of fresh vegetables, you end up with a lot of vegetable scraps. What do you do with them? Throwing them out seems so wasteful! I have put together a few suggestions to see if maybe I can help you see those scraps in a new light.

  1. Eat them

Stems and stalks may not be the sexiest parts of the plants but they are still loaded with all the good nutrition and fiber you find in the prettier areas. Stems can be tough but if you dice them up and toss them in a soup, stew or stir-fry, they will become tender and delish.

  1. Feed them to your pooch

Chauncy and Lucy regularly eat vegetables as I mentioned in my post, Natural Pets: Eat Your Veggies Fido! They love broccoli stalks, cut up to roughly the same size as their store-bought treats. Lucy goes wild over crunchy lettuce ends. They are also both huge fans of kale stems, raw or cooked. I will dice up kale or Swiss chard stems, steam them and mix them in with their dog food. They gobble it right down.

Chauncy and Broccolli Stem

Please be careful when feeding your dog fruit or veggies. Always make sure you give them safe veggies in small, manageable portions. Less is more is definitely more in this case! Never give your dog onions, corn cobs, grapes, nuts, avocados or stone fruits.

Lucy and Broccoli

  1. Make stock or broth

I have to admit…I rarely do this. A lot of people do though. They will reserve their veggie scraps and freeze them until they have enough to cook down into stock. The problem I have with this, besides giving up the freezer space, is not all veggies taste good together. While I love and appreciate kale mightily, it has too strong a flavor to use in stock. Maybe one day when I have my dream garden, (and don’t have a three hour commute) I can devote my time to separating scrap for stock.

  1. Compost it

Composting is a wonderful way to improve your soil. Vegetables are a beautiful, safe addition to your heap or bin. Again, this is not something that I currently do but would like to. If you are a gardener and have been contemplating whether or not to make your own compost, let this be the push to get you started! Find great information (and laughs) in Jeff Yeager’s wonderful article, Rotten Luv: My Love Affair with Compost.

Final Thought:

If you have to toss them in the trash, go ahead. There are far worse things stuffing up landfills than veg scraps. At least you know that they will fully decompose and not wreak havoc on the environment for centuries to come.

How do you use your veggie scraps? Do you throw them out? Have you tried any of the suggestions mentioned above? Would you? Leave me a reply and let me know.

Many blessings to all,

 

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Nature’s Bounty: Fresh from the Farmer’s Market

“All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A dream of mine is to grow a lot of my own food and flowers.  Alas, a garden is a demanding avocation.  So, I must set aside that dream for now as my schedule does not permit.  In the meanwhile, thankfully, there is the farmer’s market.

I go to the farmer’s market usually every other week.  To me, it is an almost magical place.  The veggies and fruit seem more ravishing than jewels.  It makes me happy to gaze upon them, nestled in their display cases, practically bursting with delicious ripeness.  I was so excited by the first Long Island tomatoes, you would have thought it was my birthday.

One of the greatest pleasures is eating, fresh, ripe fruit and veggies in season!  I buy almost all organic produce when I shop at the supermarket but not even that tastes quite as delicious as food that was picked within a day of when I purchased it.  That first bite of tomato was like eating sunshine, the rain and the rich earth all in the form of a juicy, delectable, plump, meaty red tomato!  There is something very satisfying and right about eating tomatoes or corn, grown in the same environment you live in.

The farm I buy from is about 90 miles from my home or just shy of a two hour drive.  (The farmer’s market is about five miles away.  I really appreciate the farmers doing the lion’s share of the driving!)  While there is no universal agreement on what makes food local for a consumer.  100 miles has become the standard for many.  So, let’s go with that, shall we?

I think eating food that is grown locally is important for several reasons.  Taste is number one, as you probably already surmised by the way I went on and on in the previous paragraphs.  A close second is that you are buying the food from the people who grew it.  So, they can tell you in detail what their practices are and you can decide if they meet your standards.  Also, you are supporting people in your community by purchasing from them.  The last one I am going to mention is freshness.  Much of the produce you buy in the supermarket is not picked at maximum ripeness.  It is picked early to keep it from rotting in transit.  So, you are not getting the maximum flavor and nutrition, you would have enjoyed had it been allowed to ripen on the vine.

Do you go to your local farmer’s market?  What is your favorite part about going there? Please leave me a reply and let me know in the comments section.

Many blessings to all,

 

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

 

Naturally Healthy Fat-free Snack: Baked Kale Chips

I always liked the idea of kale chips but whenever I tried the store-bought kind, I found them to be very small, kind of greasy and a bit mushy.  They just never tasted quite right.  They barely resembled kale.  They were more like the soggy embers of kale!

I really like using parchment paper when I make oven fries.  They don’t stick to the cookie sheet and you don’t need any oil.  So, they are fat-free! Seriously, what’s not to like?  I reasoned if I was happy with the results,  I was getting with sliced potatoes, yams, carrots, etc., using this method, then was worth a try with Kale too.

It worked!   Essentially, you are in between baking and dehydrating the kale in your oven.  The best part is these chips are so easy to make:

Baked Kale Chips

Large Bunch of Kale

Cookie Sheets

Parchment Paper

Sea Salt (optional)

Sriracha Sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 270 Degrees

Wash and dry kale.  (I like to spin the water out with a salad spinner.)   De-stem Kale.  You want to remove the stem all the way up the leaf (no tough veins!)  Tear into large pieces (remember they will shrink as they bake.)  Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Do not overlap.

Place the leaves close together but not overlapping!

Place the leaves close together but not overlapping!

Place in oven on different racks, allowing the heat to circulate.  Bake for eight minutes.  Check on kale.  Sprinkle salt on if desired.  Turn the pans the other way (vertical to horizontal or vice-verse.)  Bake for another 8-10 minutes.  The kale should be thoroughly crisp but not at all burnt when it is done.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before handling.  Then place kale in serving dish.  I shake any leftover salt into the bowl with the chips.  At this point, I like to put a drop of Sriracha sauce on each chip as I eat them.  Yum!  Sometimes, I’ll sprinkle them with my homemade cashew “Parmesan cheese.”

Hope you enjoy!

Many blessings,

 

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

 

Natural Energy: Chia Seed Lemonade

I am pretty much full of chia seeds lately. They are fantastic! If you are looking for one easy way to improve your health, take chia seeds daily.

Chia seeds have a long history of providing excellent nutrition. Ancient Aztecs and Mayans used them to maximize their energy and strength. Chia seeds are still considered a superfood today. Packed with fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.  They have all the benefits of flax seeds without the need to grind to them to make them digestible. Plus, they are shelf-stable and bugs don’t like them. Hallelujah!

Chia seeds are really easy to incorporate into your diet. You can sprinkle them into salads, cereals, casseroles and baked goods. I often put them in brownies and muffins. You can also drink them. I put them in my smoothies. Unlike other seeds which stay hard, when you add chia seeds to liquid, they expand and form a gel. So, they slip right down your gullet!

Chia Seed Lemonade (a.k.a. Chia Fresca a.k.a. Iskiate) is my new favorite to take these wonderful seeds.

Chia Seed Lemonade

Tall Glass of Water

Three Tablespoons of Chia Seeds

Three Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

Half Teaspoon of Stevia

Ice

Mix the seeds into the water and let sit for ten minutes. You will notice it is much thicker at this point. Stir again. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir again and enjoy!

Do you think you will try Chia Lemonade? Do you already use chia seeds in your diet? Please let me know by leaving a reply. I love hearing from you!

Blessings to all,

Cynthia

justdragonfly

Naturally Golden: Turmeric-infused Goddess Dressing

I mentioned in last Sunday’s post, Natural Pain-Relieving Drink: Turmeric Milk, that I also use turmeric in salad dressing sometimes. I tried to figure out my recipe for you. It wasn’t easy because I rarely measure when I am concocting dressing. I usually just keep mixing ingredients together until it tastes good. So, you may need to do some of your own adjusting to taste.

Some notes before I give you the recipe. I use quite a bit of turmeric to get a greater heath benefit. You may want to use half or a quarter teaspoon. You can omit the turmeric and you will be left with my version of Goddess dressing. You can replace the oil with veggie broth or water for a lower fat version. (I am not sure how long it will keep with just water or broth.) You need the tahini though! It won’t taste right without the tahini. You can also replace the Bragg’s with tamari or nama shoyu. Of course, you can always add a little water to thin it out.

Golden Goddess Dressing

Half Cup of Olive Oil

Quarter Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar

Two Tablespoons of Tahini

1.5 Teaspoons of Honey

Half Teaspoon of Garlic Powder

Three Quarters of a Teaspoon of Turmeric

Half Teaspoon of Sriracha Hot Sauce

Half Teaspoon of Bragg Liquid Aminos

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Mix it all together and store in a jar with a tight lid. It should keep for about a week in the fridge but I finish it way faster than that! Hope you enjoy!

 

Blessings to all,

Cynthia

justdragonfly

Now for Something Completely Different… Naturally!

A few months ago, I signed up for daily writing prompts on www.sarahselecky.com.  I needed some external inspiration… and reminders I ought to be writing.  Although, it is aimed more at fiction writers, I find her prompts have helped me to get my brain chugging.

Often, she will send out prompts that ask you to write a scene with seemingly incongruent elements like yellow sports cars and fingerling potatoes.  My first reaction is usually, “what? how?”  Then my brain sets about answering those questions.  My pen flies over the paper (by the way, her rule is you must write by hand in a notebook) and suddenly it all makes sense.

Today’s prompt was more of a challenge than a scene:

Write about something that is too sweet. Describe without using the word “sweet” (obviously.)

Write by hand, in your notebook for at least ten minutes.

This is what I wrote:

My eyes grew wide as I looked at the triple chocolate mousse that the server placed in front of me.  It looked so pretty in a silver-trimmed piece of glass stemware.  The deep dark brown confection was whipped about an inch above the rim of the glass.  Shavings of more dark chocolate graced the top in fragrant curls.

I felt a pleasant tingle of anticipation as I picked the spoon and slid it into the dreamy dessert.  I placed that first decadent spoonful into my mouth and closed my eyes to savor it.  I was transported to chocolate heaven for a moment.  Waves of pleasure radiated from my mouth to my belly as that first bite melted.

I eagerly scooped up another spoonful.  The second bite was good but perhaps a bit too sugary.  My teeth began to hurt with the third bite. A hard pit formed in my stomach.  The luscious bit of cool deliciousness turned on me in my own my mouth.  It seemed to be assaulting my taste buds with a thousand tiny arrows.  I forced my new frenemy down with a big gulp of water.  Slight nausea rose back up. I set my spoon down and pushed my plate away.  I was done!

Blessings to all,

Cynthia

justdragonfly

 

Unnatural Necessity: Making the Daily Commute Delightful!

Delightful Commuting? Okay, that may always be a bit of stretch but there are ways to make the daily crawl better. Trust me, I’m an expert! I’ve been driving on average three hours a day, five days a week for two years and 10 months. The first year really sucked but I have learned a few tips and tricks that I will now pass onto you.

Tip #1: Be prepared

Shit happens sometimes. When you have over 30 miles to cover each way like I do, you’re going to be late from time to time. I live on an island. So, when there’s an accident (or two or three) you just sit at a total standstill for a half hour, utterly trapped. However, if you’re already running late when you encounter a mess like that… you’re going to be massively late and you don’t want that to happen. So, make sure you are out the door in enough time to reasonably make it to work.

Tip #2: Get as much as you can done before you leave

This is something I just learned recently. The morning is when you will have the most energy. If you are like me and spend easily half the day at work or going to and from it, you’re going to be tired at night. I usually come home, shower, eat dinner, relax a little and go to sleep. Exercise is not going to happen at night for me. I would also recommend that you do something every day that makes you happy before you leave. So, you’ll have something to smile about on your way to work.

Tip #3 Make your nose happy

I am a fan of aromatherapy. I have an arsenal of essential oils that I use daily on me, around me and sometimes in me. I diffuse scent in my car as well as my home. You can too. All it takes is a little diffuser that you can plug into your car’s cigarette lighter socket. I can change the scent in the car to suit my mood (or improve it.) Stuck in traffic, I might go with lavender. If I feel sluggish, I might reach for grapefruit or peppermint. Peppermint, by the way, is really great for motion sickness!

Tip #4 Make your ears happy

I used to listen to news throughout my whole commute. Big mistake! I often felt crabby and irritable or sad by the time I got to work, about all the miserable things being reported that I felt helpless to change. Now, I mostly listen to audiobooks. A long commute is a great time to indulge in your favorite genre, finally “read” the classics you never seem to get to or take time for self-improvement. Of course, there is always music. Just make sure you’re paying attention and not playing a big air guitar or dashboard drum solo!

Tip#5 Stretch when you get out of the car

When you are stuck, seated, in your car for a long time, you tend to want to jump out of the car and run into your destination. Try slowly making your way out of your vehicle. Stretch your legs and rotate your feet before standing. Then stretch your arms overhead, shifting your weight to both sides and stretching up from center. Rotate your shoulders. Twist from side to side. Have you ever noticed your dog or cat doing this when they have been curled up for a while? It’s natural for them. Try it. You’ll like it!

Tip #6 Change up your route from time to time

Familiarity breeds contempt. Taking the same route five days a week, every week, year after year, can feel relentless, repetitive… boring! Change it up sometimes. Every once in a while, I’ll go a little out of my way and drive home along the water. Seeing the water always makes me happy. Instead of stopping for gas when you get home, pull off the parkway where the traffic backs up and get it early. You’ll get a little break and ensure you won’t leave it off until tomorrow because you were too tired when you got home. Also, it’s good for your brain! (More on this in another post.)

I hope you found some of these tips helpful. What do you do to make your commute bearable? Please leave a reply in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Blessings to all,

 

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly

Natural Way to Start the Day: Summertime Smoothie

Summer is the season of the green smoothie! You can get all your ingredients fresh from the Farmer’s Market. The best foods for our bodies are the ones that are available in season. Getting fruit and veggies from the Farmer’s market ensures that they were grown locally and that they were picked when ripe.

I start every morning with a green smoothie. (When I didn’t get to make it yesterday. I really REALLY missed it!)  Here is what I have been putting in my blender lately:

Summertime Green Smoothie Recipe

Two big handfuls of Kale

The juice of a quarter slice of lemon

One peach, stone removed but skin intact

One cup of almond milk

One banana

Two tablespoons of Chia Seeds (These are rich in protein and fiber!)

I usually just throw it all in the blender and whirl it up. If I remember I will soak the chia seeds in the almond milk first. (Soaking seeds speeds up the time in which you digest them.) Most of the time, I just toss them in the blender with everything else. They still get the job done!

Another variation on this recipe that I like is to replace the peach with a few slices of melon. I try not to go overboard on the fruit. Although it is healthy, spiking your sugar first thing in the morning might have you crashing soon after you get to work.

Do you drink green smoothies in the morning? What do you put in yours? Please let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

Many blessings to All,

 

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly

Natural Lady: Red Raspberry Leaf to the Rescue!

Any woman who has ever suffered from PMS and menstrual symptoms knows it feels like torture just to get through the day. Cramps, fatigue, headaches, bloating, food cravings, irritability… the list of crappy things that make life a trial for a week to two weeks every single month seems endless! It’s embarrassing to me that I didn’t know before this year, there is a natural remedy that helps mightily with all these symptoms, Red Raspberry Leaf!

I endured bad menstrual symptoms for decades. Although I always prefer to use natural remedies when I am ailing, it was hard to get through a really bad period without popping Advil or Pamprin. I would do my best to avoid it. I found some relief from cramps with Lemon Balm tea (an anti-spasmodic) but if I got a headache, it was all over, I reached for the over-the-counter meds. Then a few months ago, I was researching some other herb and came across Red Raspberry Leaf. It was a total coincidence that I am forever grateful for!

I was skeptical that one herb would help relieve all my symptoms but I was willing to try anything.  Unbelievably, it worked right away. My cramps were gone within 40 minutes of taking it and stayed gone for many hours afterward. The fatigue and foggy head feeling lifted. I felt more like myself.   You know how when you have when you have a bad period; you don’t even feel quite human? Gone! Mood swings- gone! Cravings- gone! (This is a big deal for me. When I have my period, I usually can’t get enough salt which, of course, didn’t help with the bloating.) Red Raspberry Leaf thankfully does help with the bloating too!

I don’t know if results are the same for every woman but I will share with you what I do. I take one herbal capsule each day, starting a few days before I expect my period to arrive. When I get my period, usually I can get by with one capsule in the morning and one before I go to bed.   However, I carry the bottle with me and if I begin to get crampy, I will take another one, similar to how I used to take Advil, as needed. So far, so good! This has been working for me for my last three cycles. I have read other women prefer to drink Red Raspberry Leaf tea daily and that works for them. I like the sound of that but prefer the convenience of capsules.

So, if you experience painful, tortuous periods, you may want to give Red Raspberry Leaf a try. Please let me know what natural remedies you have used when you have your period in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Many blessings to all,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly