Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Curing Menstrual Pain

To any men out there who read my blog, this will be an overtly female blog post. I understand men don't particularly like to read or hear about "that time of the month", but I urge you to read on, as we all have mothers, sisters, aunts, and friends that may greatly benefit from this information.

As a women, "that time of the month" is highly individual. I will never forget my first period. I had looked forward to the day I would get my first as a mark of women hood and a right of passage. When it did come, it was everything I never expected. I was staying with my aunt, uncle and cousin for a couple weeks in the summer. I was 13. At first it was a little exciting. My body was changing and I was growing into a young women, but by the second day, the most immeasurable pain took hold. I remember laying on the bathroom floor in the fetal position wishing for death. I'm not trying to be dramatic. It was that bad. I couldn't move or talk. All I could do was lay there praying for the pain to end. I was humiliated because my aunt kept checking on me and seemed very confused as to my pain. She and my cousin did not suffer in this way. My stomach was a mess and I frequently had to use the bathroom as well.

I dreaded my period from then on. It was literally a nightmare. Straight out of a horror film. Lots of blood, pain and tears. When I was about 16/17 I decided to go on the pill. I had heard the birth control pill helped with menstrual cramps. I also had a steady boyfriend and felt I was being responsible all around to give birth control pills a try.

I was shocked and amazed at how my body responded. Painful periods became a memory of the past. Having my period no longer ket me in bed clutching my abdomen, writhing in pain. I felt free for the first time in years. I continued to stay on the pill for about 8 years.

If you have read my first blog, you know about my story and when I decided to go off all medications. I was not yet raw. I would say I was eating a whole foods diet and had eliminated most processed foods. I boldly went off birth control pills with the hope that cleaning up my diet and tools like acupuncture would ward of any painful periods. It didn't. Into my third period after going off the pill I had the most horrendous pain yet. Not only was the pain indescribable, but I felt sick to my stomach like I might throw up. All I could think was how this couldn't be normal and I wondered if I might die from the pain. I couldn't feel my legs, as it felt like there was no blood flow to my lower extremities.

The intense pain usually only lasted a 12-24 hour period. I got some herbs from my acupuncturist to help take the edge off, but I was still far from functional on these days. When I went raw I did see an improvement in my period pain, but not the miracle I was hoping for. I thanked the heavens I didn't work outside of my home because I would have had to call in sick at least once a month. I don't think that would have gone over very well in the business world.

So that's how things have been for me for almost two years now. High raw and still having painful cramps. I coped by really nurturing myself on those days, taking herbs and using a heating pad. A doctor once asked me, "why I let my body get away with that...take 3 IBUProfen", he said, as if my body was something to drug into submission. Pain from the body is always a message and not to be ignored, yet rather contemplated, and then the message integrated. After all my body had been through, I knew in my heart covering up the problem was not the answer. So I dealt with it and intended some day I would figure this puzzle out.

Knock and the door shall open :). About a month ago now I read a new article written by Shazzie. You can check that out here. She had a similar journey as myself with period pain and has found amazing relief after mega dosing on DHA. I had just purchased some Omega-Zen when I read the article and thought synchronicity once again popped graciously into my life to get me those pills. So I started taking four a day. The recommended dosage is one a day. Shazzie took ten a day, but I knew I had about a month till my next period and four felt right to me so I trusted my intuition.

Another factor that happened in this time frame is I went 100% raw. This was not a conscious decision, it happened naturally without me really noticing. I just have not had any desire for cooked food in the last three to four weeks. It feels like a natural progression my body has guided me to.

My period came on Monday. I waited for the pain to kick in. It usually does after the first 12 hours. It hasn't come. I slept wonderfully last night and awoke in amazement that I am pain free. I'm not sure if both going 100% raw and the DHA are factors, but I feel the DHA is the main reason I am feeling so great. I had a deficiency that I am now correcting and I am so thankful.

Thank you Shazzie for sharing your experience and shining your light. You are truly a goddess and I love you for all that you do and all that you are. There is a cure for period pain. I now know of two people, myself and Shazzie, who have had incredible results with DHA.

There are some in the raw food world that feel all supplements can cause problems, with the logic that we are a nation sick from over indulgence, not lack. I would just like to express that illness can be caused by both excess and lack. We live in a world that has mineral depleted soils and pollution is a part of our very existence, from the homes we live in, to our water, to the air we breath. It is significant to think of this as a yin and yang balance. Removing the things from our diet that cause dis-ease and adding in what is lacking. Only when we achieve balance can there be true health. Fixating on one extreme will only create imbalance.

With lots of love and hope~


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clear Skin

Bravery at its best! Me, right out of the shower :)!

I have learned a lot about skin care over the years. When I was a young teen, about thirteen, I began to suffer from mild acne. Thus began my escapade with every acne medication known to man :). I can see in hind sight that all the medications only complicated my situation. My acne went from mild to moderate, and I began to get cystic acne on my chin. Two rounds of Accutane could only keep my spots at bay for a short time, so my love/hate affair with topical medication continued into my early twenties. To read more about my history with acne you can read my first blog post.

I remember having the most neurotic thoughts about my skin, like when the bird flu craze was all over the media I thought to myself, "If I can't leave my home, I won't be able to get my prescription acne medications." What in the world was I thinking?!?!..... What about food? Who was I worried was going to see me with some pimples in the middle of this supposed crisis, and why did I think they would care about my skin?! I was a crazy woman about my skin.

I can honestly say some of that anxious emotion was tied to certain foods I was eating at the time, but some of it was also me feeling out of control in my life. I wanted so badly to feel in control with my skin and my body. I was confused, slightly depressed and lost. Focusing on my appearance allowed me to not focus on the real problem. The real problem was I didn't truly know myself and I wasn't on path, meaning I wasn't fulfilling my souls deepest yearnings. I was trying to do what I thought I was "supposed to do", what society and often family and friends expect us to accomplish, but it wasn't feeding my soul so I lacked enthusiasm and drive. I fixated on other things to avoid the uncomfortable nagging of my soul.

It wasn't until I began to change my diet that I began to get very clear mentally. I began to tune into my true self (or some might call this my "higher self") and it was then that every aspect of my life began to rapidly change, including my skin. In the past, I had always been afraid to go off my acne medications. Now that I had a new awareness, I decided I didn't care any more what the consequences were for my skin. My decision was about my health, not vanity. I knew for the health of my entire being it was the best choice to stop putting toxic chemicals onto my skin and in my body.

I remember that week so clearly. I stopped all my medications at once. I was using two topical medications, one in the morning and one at night. I was also taking birth control pills which I was convinced was also keeping my skin clear. I stopped those too. I decided I was done with all over the counter medications also. I swapped Tylenol and Claritin for homeopathic herbs from my acupuncturist. I kept waiting for the horrific acne to present, but it really wasn't that bad. I wondered if the medications were unnecessary the whole time, but then I would slip and eat some pizza and wow! Sore pimples and greasy skin.

I have been on this raw food journey long enough now that I have a very consistent diet and I can't remember the last time I had pizza :). I have learned what works best for my body and I no longer have crazy cravings unless I haven't gotten in enough greens :). I have experimented enough though to share that for me, dairy and refined sugar are sure enough to bring on breakouts. Grains tend to make me very puffy, like I can't recognize myself in the morning. Cooked oils make me oily :), and on a different note make my throat really sore. Too much salt, raw or processed, causes me to break out. Salt is my Achilles heel, but I get better with that vice every day and my body seems to be guiding me in the right direction.

With skin, less is always more. This goes for your diet, what you do to take care of your skin, as well as what you put on it. These days I try to keep everything as simple as possible. I'm not perfect, and I still get small breakouts from time to time, but practice, attention to my diet, listening to my body and continuing to work on self growth has proved to be a great formula for healthy skin. Oh and how could I forget love :). Loving others and loving yourself. Practice emanating love as much as possible and not only will you feel more beautiful, but you may find little things that used to bother you about your appearance slowly fade from your thoughts and are replaced with thoughts of gratitude.

I keep it really simple and don't put products on my skin I would be afraid to eat. I wash my face with a mild soap (like Dr. Bronners or Terressentials) only if I am wearing makeup. Otherwise, water or a flower water toner do the trick. I do exfoliate by dry brushing my skin and sometimes use a gentle, natural scrub. That's about it! Occasionally I'll do a clay mask, but it's not a consistent part of my skin care routine. I rarely need moisturizer. But sometimes I will spritz with some essential oils because it smells really nice :). If I am in a super dry climate or it's a really dry winter, a tiny amount of shea butter does the job.

Diet has made the largest impact on my skin. I can't stress enough that the health of our skin starts from within. Not only will a raw foods diet with lots of greens improve acne, but you will see health in the sparkle of your eyes, the color in your cheeks and the rosy tint of your lips. I used to hate how pale my lips were without lip gloss. I really don't need it now unless it's for fun. My lips take on a healthy pink color because I flood my body with oxygen.

For more details on skin care and my beauty musings you can check out my interview with Laura Bruno about natural beauty here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beyond The Medical Reasons For Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

In the recent years, it seems Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance have become a prevalent health issue. Mainstream media has been covering these two medical mysteries on shows such as The View, as more people are being diagnosed and discovering their sensitivities to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in many grass like grains, such as wheat, barely, spelt, kamut and rye. Celiac Disease is characterized by a severe, sudden, immune reaction to gluten, whereas gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune condition of unknown origin where gluten causes inflammation in the small intestine. With gluten sensitivity, the onset is slower, and symptoms can often occur days after ingesting gluten. If the two were thought of on a spectrum, Cealic Disease would be an extreme on one end, while gluten sensitivity could be at various intervals along the spectrum. In both cases, gluten can inhibit absorption of nutrients resulting in a wide range of possible symptoms. Some common symptoms include:

eczema and other skin problems

irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and other gastro-intenstinal problems


aching joints




nutritional deficiencies, like low B12 or iron

The vast array of symptoms can make these conditions difficult to track and often eliminating gluten from the diet for several weeks is the best option to really know how one does with out gluten. There are some tests one can take, but it has been found there are some who test negative for Celiac Disease, but through eliminating gluten, find their symptoms go away. I myself am gluten intolerant, and after much research, self discovery, and spiritual growth, I would like to share some spiritual and metaphysical reasons for what seems to be a sudden burst of intolerance to this once revered grain.

Historically wheat symbolizes both life and death. Stories of harvesting and cultivating wheat can be traced from Europe to North America. Wheat, being the staple food for many civilizations was nessesary to live, and therefore, symbolized life itself. Ironically, in order to harvest more wheat, it needs first to die and then be buried in the ground. Months later it is reborn anew as a spike emerging from the earth. This resurection of sorts then provides sustanence and has feed humanity throughout the ages.

Wheat, as well as other cereal grains, has a very complex and rich history, from symbolism in the bible, to pagan traditions and cultivation. An abundant wheat harvest meant a rich kingdom or society. Egyptian goddess Isis was known as the goddess of magic, rebirth, motherhood and femininity, and was called the Lady of Bread. Egyptians believed the Nile River flooded every year because of her tears of sorrow over her husband Osiris' death. This was symbolic to a death and rebirth of Osiris, by the power and love of Isis.

The fruitfullness of wheat symbolizes security, dependability, helpfulness, sensuality, north, grounding, goodness, wholesomeness and all the abundance the earth has to offer. So why would food so trusted, dependable, and symbolic create such havoc on a new generation? What has changed? Although there are some factors that lie in the physical realm, such as the changes in agriculture and how we cultivate and grow our food, there are also metaphysical reasons for these symptoms that correspond to a greater planetary shift and the speeding up of conscious expansion.

When I first discovered I was gluten intolerant I went through an intense morning period. Wheat, being a staple food even today, is the essence of every meal celebration and is hidden in nearly every commercial food. Family and friends often show their love through pastries, cake and pasta. I was high raw, vegan, but now I could not make exceptions at family affairs unless I knew specifically what was in the food. I mourned aspects of my social life, the traditions I had grown up with centerd around food and said goodbye to traditional holiday feasts. I felt such a deep deprivation for what I felt was my identity.

Surprisingly to me, as time when on, my new found intolerance forced me to become even more educated about what I put into my body. It also lead to me making new connections with like minded people. I finally started going to raw pot lucks and met inspiring individuals who were on similar paths to myself. I found that I no longer participated in social interaction that, deep down, had not been in alignment with my values or interests. Without being able to make "exceptions", my body took on a new vibration, as everything I put into my body was organic and unprocessed. I also found myself not craving cooked food as often. I had unknowingly eliminated a major source of my food cravings. When we are sensitive to a food, or a food is toxic to our system, our body begins to build a tolerance to that substance. When the food (or substance) is removed, all of a sudden the tolerance is felt as a sharp demanding for that very food that was harming us. These cravings are potent and can often be mistaken as a "need" by the body.

In time, due to my gluten sensitivity, I was creating amazing new connections, eating a diet that was very high vibration and was not struggling to maintain an amazing level of health. I also felt happier and at peace. I felt, well, reborn :). Parts of myself that were no longer serving me had fallen away. New traditions and connections were created, but these changes in my life have been in complete service to my souls evolution. They feel good on every level of my being and have created a happiness in my life I never knew was possible.

In these rapidly changing times, gluten intolerance asks us to disconnect from that which no longer serves our highest good and that of the planet. By having these old traditions, patterns, and possibly even connections fall away, often we can open up to our true selves, without societal expectation or programming. We have a rebirth of self, but often in ways we never dreamed were possible. Gluten, being a particularly gluey substance which can stick to the colon and clog up our waste system, can in turn lower the amount of life force energy flowing throughout our bodies. It is heavy and dense. Removing it allows for life force to flow more freely, allowing us to feel happier and more connected to ourselves, others and the planet.

Wheat needs to be cultivated and symbolizes wealth. Enlightenment, growth and abundance (wealth) in all aspects our lives (not just monetary) also must be cultivated. It is a process of growth, death and rebirth. A constant process that yields fruitful rewards to those who dare to do the labor and look within. The sensuality embodied by wheat and many cereal grains represents an unfolding of our true nature and our deepest desires. When we are surrounded by comfort and are comfortable with ourselves we take on a sensuality that is magnetic. This richness is so vast that is extends to the material and spiritual planes.

When we are struggling to find our way, often our body steps in on behalf of our soul to nudge us in the right direction. As my friend Laura always says, the body always works with the soul, for the soul's highest good. The body and soul are like lovers. What one can not, or won't do, the other will step in and provide. This often creates a place or situation where the soul's true desires and needs become apparent. I now look at my gluten intolerance as a beautiful gift. There is no loss. It feels good. Where I am now and the changes that have occurred in my life are what I would have wanted for myself if I had been aware enough to make the changes on my own.

It is said that delaying gratification is a mark of wisdom. I have to agree. Some times we think we know what is best for us, but our body knows better. It is connected to our true self. This process is often needed for stabiltity and comfort. Just as one must save grain, not eating it all, to plant for the next harvest, which brings abundance to those who save the crop.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pet Holistic Health Update

In my second blog post I wrote about our pets raw diet and some information about their holistic lifestyle. The little gremlins seem to be a favorite by everyone who views their pictures or reads about them so I plan on keeping everyone posted as to how they are doing as well as discuss successes and any stumbling blocks with their lifestyle. We recently have made some changes to their diet so I wanted to update everyone :).

Our three pets, Malachi, Maikoda and Milo are still doing very well :). They are all three still raw and love their Primal pet food. Despite their love for their food, Malachi, the black and white male, developed an inflamed annal gland....ewwww, I know gross. In light of helping others to navigate a healthy, raw or holistic diet for their pets, I felt I should share what we learned, despite the unappealing symptom :). An inflamed anal glad often develops with dogs when they are not getting enough fiber. You know that commercial with the dog dragging its bottom across the carpet!? That's often what dogs do that have this symptom. Luckily Malichi never did the butt drag... Phew!  

My husband and I take our pets to holistic vet, Jim Coddigton of The Country Vet in Navato. Dr. Coddington is very kind and knowledgeable. I love that he has alternatives to pharmaceutical medications, such as herbs and acupuncture. He lets us know when there is an herbal option and when he feels a medication may be necessary. Dr. Coddigton talked to my husband about our dogs diets and what they are eating. He told my husband that unfortunately the raw foods for dogs that are out on the market are not a perfect food and often lack enough fiber. Of course this depends on the particular dog and their individual needs. I was a little surprised at first because we often give our dogs fresh roughage mixed in with their food, but around the time this problem developed, we had been slacking with mixing in their fresh roughage. We were very busy because we had just moved and I figured they were getting a complete and balanced meal, and that what we added was just extra good stuff :). Silly me, as of course just like humans, dogs benefit from variety. Our vet suggested a dehydrated brand that he feeds his dogs. 

I took this information to heart and researched the brand he suggested. The ingredients actually ended up being nearly identical to the raw food with the exception of potato. This particular brand was also not organic and, if possible, I like to keep my pets on organic food, as commercial animal products (especially pet grade) often contain hormones, antibiotics and many toxins. Our pets also LOVE their food, so my husband and I decided to first try to add more fiber to their current food and see if they did well. Our vet also suggested this option, but in the form of psyllium husk. 

We have been slicing up sweet potato or squash on our mandolin and storing that for a couple days at a time in the fridge. The thinly sliced/chopped pieces enables the sweet potato to be easily digested. Dogs in the wild eat roots and tubers as a part of their natural diet. This gets mixed into their food along with any other roughage we have been eating, such as carrots, zucchini, greens and celery. I also have been saving the pulp from juicing (when it is safe for the dogs) and rotating that into their food as well. They still have been loving their meals and Malachi's situation has resolved. Yay! 

Ironically, this little incident shows that dogs are omnivores and need more vegetation that many realize. I stated in my past post that there are many dogs that actually thrive on vegan diets, if done carefully and with supplements. Our cat didn't need any changes to his diet. Cats are carnivores and do much better with a higher percentage of flesh. 

I would also like to add that we rotate the different types of Primal meat so our pets get a viriety of nutrients. For a couple weeks they will eat chicken, then they may eat duck and the next salmon. All our pets do not do well with the larger animals meats so we do not feed them bovine or sheep meat. It is important to observe your pet carefully for any sign of allergy or intolerance to particular foods. I have heard of many dogs and cats being sensitive or allergic to bovine, so this is something to monitor when feeding your pet. Signs of sensitivity include loss of hair, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, sneezing, runny nose and watery, runny eyes. Also, trust your pets instincts if for some reason they avoid a particular type of food or do not eat very much of it, later becoming sick. Here is a quick list of foods that are not safe for pets: all parts of the avocado, chocolate, apple seeds, grapes and raisins, green tomatoes and tomato leaves and stems, onions, spicy foods, caffeine (not great for humans either) macadamia nuts, persimmons, salt, spinach and milk (most adult cats and dogs do not contain the enzyme to break down the sugar lactose in milk products). There are other possibilities, so it is wise to do your own research and always monitor your pet for their individual needs.

We also began alternating the echinacea supplement to our pets food every other week. Our vet informed us it was best to rotate, as the immune system can build a tolerance when it is constantly being introduced to the system. Our dogs seem to be doing really well with this eating regimen so far, and I will of course update as to any news or changes on this front. We are keeping the dehydrated food as a possible option for traveling, as it is convenient to simply rehydrate in a small bowl of water. Their current pet food is frozen, so it's a bit trickier for traveling. We usually bring a cooler anyway to transport some of our own raw goodies, yet options are always good :).

Lots of love and light from the Margraf clan ~ XOXO