Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Line-up

Last night I had dinner with a friend (hello friend, if you're reading ;) ) and she mentioned that she wouldn't be able to find the time to make all this food if she were to go paleo.  She doesn't necessarily want to go paleo, but she was just sayin'.

I get that.  It is a lot of work.  But I don't think it's a paleo thing, I think any time you are trying to feed your family the freshest, least-processed food possible, it simply takes more time and effort.  Even if you're not paleo, making snacks and meals from scratch means more time in the kitchen.  Believe me, most mornings would be easier if I just poured a bowl of cereal for my kiddos or made some instant oatmeal in the microwave (ew.  We don't even have a microwave anymore ) But I suck it up and make some eggs, some humanely, properly raised chicken sausage, and maybe throw in a grain-free, sugar-free muffin I made on Sunday :)

And sorry to those arguing that you can maintain optimal health while avoiding food preparation altogether with fruits, veggies and some nuts - I respectfully disagree.  Although there are some raw meat paleo peeps who have it pretty good when it comes to avoiding prep time in the kitchen!  Not my thing, but a completely raw paleo diet actually makes the most sense to me.

There are, of course, many pre-made food options that cater to all dietary lifestyles.  As far as the paleo lifestyle goes, sometimes (gasp!) I do go the easier route and buy some packaged food.  However, this often means skimping on quality and savings.  For example,  I could buy organic vegetable soup in a can or box.  But I choose to buy all the veggies local and fresh and to sometimes use my own homemade chicken broth.  This also means less packaging waste and avoiding cans (not so good for ya).  I could also spend more money and buy Lara bars (often I do) instead of making them myself.  I could also spend more money and buy beef jerky instead of making it myself.  I could also buy pre-made kale chips (outrageously expensive!) instead of making them myself.  I could go on and on.  Some things I can't just buy pre-made (hard-boiled eggs and certain specialty baked items, just to use some examples).

A few no-brainers that do still fit into this lifestyle as complementary foods are fruits, veggies, and nuts:  no preparation necessary (unless you choose to soak and dehydrate your nuts, which I do, but that's a whole other post :)  A lot of times I simply choose to make some things from scratch because my kids really want a certain "snacky" item that isn't very healthy and I am trying to replicate it with paleo ingredients.  I don't want the poor kids to feel left out and go off the deep end one day.  Actually, come to think of it, if I were just feeding myself, I would spend very little time in the kitchen.  I'm pretty easy to please and I like to keep things simple :)

In some ways, the paleo lifestyle has made my life easier, and in some ways harder.  I feel like it's pretty easy to remember what I can eat:  *real* food.  It's fairly simple to meal plan:  each meal usually contains a protein (animal sourced), a healthy fat, and a veggie or two (not too complicated, right?)  The tricky part comes when I need to get something on the go.  There are limited options.  It is actually frightening how few convenience stores and restaurants cater to a real foods lifestyle.  Even if they have fresh fruits and veggies, restaurants are sorely lacking when it comes to the oils they prepare their food in.  Most restaurants add nasty unhealthy oils to their food (also, try going into a 7-11 and finding a bag of nuts that isn't chock full of omega-6 oils and table salt, not to mention the whole organic factor) and the meat they use is enough to make one turn vegetarian (It did for me at one point, until I learned how healthy properly raised and treated animals products are).

I decided to add all this information because like my friend, others reading about my Sunday kitchen happenings might also be overwhelmed thinking about all that cooking.  You will have to do some cooking if you choose to eat this way (unless you go the raw route, yes many paleo peeps eat raw meat), but you could easily try to find most of the items in the grocery store, whichever dietary lifestyle you follow. 

All that said, I choose to do most of my cooking in one time block to save time and hassle throughout the week.  My reasons for cooking all this healthy scrumptious food myself are:

-I know what is going into our food
-I save some money making things myself
-I use fresher ingredients than the store-bought stuff
-Some specialty items specific to this lifestyle can't be found in any store - like the dip I made today - I wanted to use my own healthy mayonnaise, although I probably could have found a similar version at the store. 
-I actually enjoy it :)

Soooo, today I made this:

-Hard-boiled eggs
-Coconut flour waffles (minus the raisins)
-Chicken drumsticks

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Line-up

So last week we were out of town and I therefore spent my Sunday wondering why we take road trips with small children frolicking in the snow with my family (post regarding staying paleo on the road coming soon :) ).

Today I made up for it by making these bad boys:

*hard-boiled eggs

*soaked and dried almonds and walnuts

*veggie soup

*homemade ground beef jerky

*chicken drumsticks

*nut butter balls (I am totally addicted to these things YUMMERS)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Sunday Line-Up

Hello Friends,

As some of you know, I spend most of my Sundays preparing food for the week ahead.  I love to cook.  Although, admittedly, sometimes all this work seems like a chore, the gratifying end result is totally worth all the effort.  I love opening the fridge to find all the fresh, yummy, healthy, made-from-scratch food I lovingly made for my family.  Plus, those few extra hours in the kitchen pay off when I don't even have to think about most meals and snacks the coming week.

And I thank my husband for supporting and encouraging my efforts :)

So, with all that said, I'm going to post my Sunday kitchen happenings right here.  Lately I've been feeling kind of turned-off to blogging - not to other bloggers ( I looooove lurking and visiting other blogs for inspiration :), but for some reason I sometimes feel like "Look at me!  I'm sooo special!"  But I figured I may take my own efforts for granted sometimes and realized, hey, I am special, and maybe some of my ideas just might inspire others :)

Thank you for visiting my humble little blog, sweet followers :)

This week:

* Kale chips

* Hard-boiled eggs

* Paleo Sweet Potato bread

* Homemade jello

* Veggie soup (Nourishing Traditions homemade chicken broth, or lately I've been lazy and have been using Imagine organic free range chicken broth - three boxes, two cloves garlic, one onion, two red bell peppers, five zucchinis, seven carrots, one bunch kale, one bunch spinach, one head cabbage, three sticks celery) (This soup is awesome.  For some reason, my whole family loves it and asks for it all the time.  It's a great little side to go with lunch or dinner during the week and a great way to get tons of veggies in your kiddos!)

* Nut Butter Balls

* Grain-free biscuits (from this book) (to go with veggie soup)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Easy Salmon Rolls

Here's a quick recipe that's fun for the kiddos to make!  My five year old had so much fun making these, and even more fun eating them!  I made these in a pinch so I didn't have the time to add more ingredients, but I could see adding shredded veggies like carrots or cabbage, or even some avocado slices in there.  The possibilities are endless.


*Small can of wild salmon (or tuna, or sardines - my kids gobble sardines up!) - approx. 4 ounces
*2 Tbsp mayonaise
*Nori sushi sheets (I used these)


1.  Mix fish with mayonaise
2.  Spoon fish/mayo mixture evenly along one end of the nori sheet.
3.  Roll to desired thickness.  You can make these as large or as small as you want.
4.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Placentophagy - Consuming Your Own Placenta

Why yes, I did consume my own placenta.  In pill form, that is.  I learned soooo much during my last pregnancy and one of the things I was eager to try was placenta encapsulation.  Why, you ask?  Placenta offers some great information on placentophagy (I used Placenta Joy for my encapsulation services).  I can tell you that the days I forgot to take my "pills" I noticed a difference in my mood and energy levels.  And I don't know if it had to do with the home birth, my nutrition, or just plain knowing what to do this time around, but I had more than enough milk and breastfeeding was a lot easier.  I also had very little bleeding.  I highly recommend placenta encapsulation if you're not down for straight up eating your own placenta!

Here is some info regarding placenta encapsulation taken from Placenta

Placenta for Healing
by Jodi Selander

Many people of the world have known the secret power of the placenta as a medicinal supplement. Among the Chinese and Vietnamese, it is a customary practice to prepare the placenta for consumption by the mother. The placenta is thought to be rich in nutrients that the mother needs to recover more readily from childbirth. In Italy, women have been known to eat parts of the placenta to help with lactation. Hungarian women bite the placenta to expedite the completion of labor. And knowledgeable midwives in this country have their birth mothers take bites of raw placenta to help stop hemorrhaging, due to its beneficial oxytocin content.

There are a variety of potential benefits to placentophagy. For one, the placenta contains vitamins and minerals that may help fight depression symptoms, such as vitamin B6. For another, the placenta is considered rich in iron and protein, which would be useful to women recovering from childbirth, and a particular benefit to vegetarian women.

Research on placentophagy is still in its infancy, although there is a large body of research beginning to develop on postpartum hormone fluctuations and health. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study that focused on CRH (Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone). CRH is a stress reducer, and is generally produced by the hypothalamus. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes so much CRH that the levels in the bloodstream increase threefold. However, it was also discovered that postpartum women have lower than average levels of CRH, triggering depressive symptoms.1 They concluded that the placenta secreted so much CRH that the hypothalamus stopped producing it. Once the placenta was born, it took some time for the hypothalamus to get the signal that the CRH levels were low, and to begin producing it again. This is just another sign that there is likely a biological cause for the baby blues, directly related to hormone levels.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using placenta medicinally for thousands of years. One of the well-known TCM uses for placenta, or Zî hé chē, is to help with insufficient lactation.2 Interestingly enough, in 1954, researchers conducted a study on 210 women who were expected to have insufficient milk supply. They gave dried placenta to the women, and discovered that 86% of them had a positive increase in their milk production within a matter of days.3 It is exciting to see that some scientific research has validated TCM theories of the benefits of placenta. More recent research has discovered that placentophagia could enhance pain tolerance by increasing the opium-like substances activated during childbirth.4 This would obviously be beneficial during the postpartum healing process.

In my personal experience, women who have taken placenta capsules report positive results in an overwhelming number of cases. Some women have even reported feeling positive effects as quickly as the same afternoon of the day they began their first dose. Women who were already feeling "weepy", or experiencing other early signs of the baby blues, have felt better within days. Although the current scientific research is exciting, we have barely begun to scratch the surface of the potential benefits of placentophagy. Considering that placenta is a completely natural substance, created by a woman's own body, encapsulation of the placenta is definitely worth considering as part of a holistic postpartum recovery for every expectant woman.
1. Baby blues - postpartum depression attributed to low levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone after placenta is gone; Discover; Dec 1995.
2. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica.
3. Placenta as a Lactagogon; Gynaecologia 138: 617-627, 1954.
4. Placenta ingestion by rats enhances δ- and κ-opioid antinociception, but suppresses μ-opioid antinociception; DiPirro, J.M. and Kristal M.B., Brain Research 1014: 22-23, 2004.
The following is adapted fromPlacentophagia by Melissa Baker - reprinted with permission. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine
Augments Qi (energy) and Xue (Blood) and therefore tonifies Yang, Yin and Jing (Vital Essence).
Brief Explanation:

All foods have properties that can benefit the body, depending on the body type and other factors. Placenta is considered to be a very powerful medicine as it is life giving and stores the vital essence for the baby. Placenta is often included in traditional medicinal combinations with restorative functions.

Generally we cannot directly tonify the vital essence as it is over a process of years that this is built up. Firstly there is the Qi that comes from what we consume. Some of this Qi is then turned into Xue (Blood) after digestion and stored in the Liver. If the body is producing enough Blood (via good health practices) it is then transported from the Liver to the Kidneys and Marrow (in TCM the Kidneys control the Bone Marrow) and becomes Jing. There are two types of Jing: pre-natal and post-natal. Pre-natal Jing is the reason why pre-natal care is so important for future health. It comes from the sperm and ova during conception and cannot be replenished. Post-natal Jing can be replenished but it takes many years. Pregnancy is taxing on the body and can drain Qi, Xue and Jing (in that order) even if the mother follows the best of health regimes.

More specifically, placenta pills may help to:

 Increase general energy
 Allow a quicker return to health after birth
 Increase production of breast milk
 Decrease likelihood of baby blues and post natal depression
 Decrease likelihood of iron deficiency
 Decrease likelihood of insomnia or sleep disorders

The body is so individual and because of the powerful nature of this medicine other benefits are also likely but too numerous to mention. I believe that this practice is particularly beneficial to vegetarian mothers and those prone to post natal depression.

Other Considerations

It is best to check with your midwife or health care professional to be sure that your placenta is healthy and able to be eaten. It may be best to just ask if it is healthy, depending on your relationship with your caregiver.


Not to be used in heat conditions or for people with the presence of pathogenic factors, including common cold and mastitis.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Salmon Cakes with Mayo Sauce

OK, call me an overachiever.  I made salmon cakes for my boys for lunch today.  But they were really easy, I promise!


*about 8 ounces of cooked salmon (I used canned wild salmon from Vital Choice)
*2 eggs
*1 tsp coconut flour
*1/4 red onion, finely diced
*2 cloves pressed garlic
*1 tsp dill
*1 tsp tomato paste
*2 tsp dijon mustard
*salt and pepper to taste
*coconut oil or butter for frying

Sauce Ingredients:

*mayonaise (I use Wilderness Family Naturals brand)
*Sweetener of your chocie to taste. (I use Stevita Supreme)


1.  Place all ingredients except salmon in a bowl and mix well.
2.  Mash salmon and add to mixture to thoroughly combine.
3.  Oil or butter a pan or griddle over medium heat.
4.  Ladle about 1/4 cup mixture for each cake onto griddle.  Flatten each cake with the back of the ladle and form into a pancake.  Each cake will be about 4 inches in diameter.  This recipe makes 4-5 cakes.
5.  Brown each cake and then flip to brown the other side.
6.  Mix mayonaise and stevia together.  How much you use of each will depend on your personal taste preference.
7. Spoon mayo mixture over each cake.  Serve and enjoy!

P.S.  I plan to start adding pictures real soon.  This blog needs some color!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Paleo Almond Flour Pancake/Waffle Recipe

My five year old loves waffles for breakfast, and I have been using this easy almond flour recipe for the past year or so.  It only yields about three medium sized waffles, or four small pancakes, so adjust the recipe to fit your needs.  Please note:  this recipe calls for blanched almond flour.  Almond meal or ground almonds will not yield the same desirable results).


*1 cup blanched almond flour (I use Honeyville brand)
*2 eggs (preferably organic and pastured)
*2 tbsp flax meal
*2 tbsp coconut oil
*1/2 to 3/4 cup water
*pinch sea salt


1.  Mix all ingredients together in one bowl.  I mix it all together at once to avoid hassle in the morning.  No need to separate wet from dry first, etc.

2.  Spoon about 1/4 cup mixture onto greased (preferably with coconut oil) waffle iron or griddle.  Remove when done as you would with a standard waffle/pancake mix.

3.  Top with ingredients of your choice.  My son, of course, loves maple syrup on his.  I usually just eat them plain or top them with mashed fruit or nut butter.  My toddler loves these plain as well!  He doesn't yet know about the sweet stuff yet and happily chows down on these plain :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Easy Chili Recipe

This chili recipe is so easy, even a caveman could do it! Ha!

But seriously, I make this chili once a week and the whole family digs it.  Even my husband, when asked what he wanted for his 40th birthday dinner, requested this bad boy.  You can find all the ingredients at your local Trader Joe's.  Plus you will have tons of leftovers so you won't even have to think about lunch.  You could even add some eggs any style to it and have it for breakfast!  Whoo hoo!


-2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef or ground turkey
-2 tbsp. coconut oil (or butter or other oil of your choice to brown meat in)
-1 bag frozen bell peppers n onions (TJ's makes a fire roasted variety; not organic, but easy peasy)
-Two 15 oz. cans organic tomato sauce (yes I know cans aren't that great for ya, but we are using canned in the interest of saving time and hassle!)
-Two cans water (use cans from tomato sauce)
-One 12 oz. can organic tomato paste
-2 tbsp. chili powder
-diced avocado to taste


1.  Add coconut oil to skillet and melt over medium heat.
2.  Brown ground meat in coconut oil.
3.  Poor off drippings (or not)
4.  Add all ingredients sans avocado to a large pot.  Add browned meat and stir all together.  Cook over medium high until boiling, then set to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Alternatively, you could place all ingredients in a crockpot on low for a few hours to let the flavors really meld and have dinner warm and ready when you come home!
5.  Add diced avocado on top or if you go the dairy route, add sour cream and/or cheese)
6.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes

Is it really already November?  Fall is in the air and so is the smell of pumpkin goodness in our house!

A few weeks ago my five year old and I made a paleo pumpkin pie from scratch.  I was a little intimidated by the pie pumpkin that sat on my counter for about a week, but making the insides resemble the stuff we buy in a can was easier than expected!  I would post the paleo pie recipe, but I basically butchered a standard pie recipe to make it paleo and can't remember what modifications I made.  But I can tell you that it was damn good!

Anywho, I had some leftover pumpkin puree from the pie pumpkin we steamed and decided to research a paleo pumpkin pancake recipe.  I doubled this one and thought I'd share it with you here because it was deelish!

* pinch of baking soda
* pinch of salt
* 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
* 1/2 cup almond flour
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin
* 1 tbsp honey ( I skipped the honey and added a little bit of Stevita )
* 2 eggs
Combine the dry ingredients together in one bowl, then in another bowl combine the wet ingredients. Then toss the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly. Let mixture sit for 2 or 3 minutes.
Cook in a pan on medium-high like a normal pancake.
Makes 6 medium sized pancakes. The pancakes will look a lot darker (and orange-er) than normal, but are still delicious!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I love this post...

During my credential/Master's degree program at UC Irvine, I knew I didn't agree with the way things were done in the public school system.  Some light bulbs went on when I started working in the private homeschooling sector and I saw how well students did with independent study.  Now I am homeschooling, or "unschooling" my own children...who would have thought...

What is Unschooling?
by Earl Stevens

"What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge,
not knowledge in pursuit of the child."
- George Bernard Shaw

It is very satisfying for parents to see their children in pursuit of knowledge. It is natural and healthy for the children, and in the first few years of life, the pursuit goes on during every waking hour. But after a few short years, most kids go to school. The schools also want to see children in pursuit of knowledge, but the schools want them to pursue mainly the school'sknowledge and devote twelve years of life to doing so.

In his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year award (1990), John Gatto said, "Schools were designed by Horace Mann ... and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population." In the interests of managing each generation of children, the public school curriculum has become a hopelessly flawed attempt to define education and to find a way of delivering that definition to vast numbers of children.

The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves. It was no doubt noticed that, when given a choice, most children prefer not to do school work. Since, in a school, knowledge is defined as schoolwork, it is easy for educators to conclude that children don't like to acquire knowledge. Thus schooling came to be a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever educators decided was beneficial for them. Most children don't like textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and lengthy periods of physical inactivity. One can discover this - even with polite and cooperative children - by asking them if they would like to add more time to their daily schedule. I feel certain that most will decline the offer.
The work of a schoolteacher is not the same as that of a homeschooling parent. In most schools, a teacher is hired to deliver a ready-made, standardized, year-long curriculum to 25 or more age-segregated children who are confined in a building all day. The teacher must use a standard curriculum - not because it is the best approach for encouraging an individual child to learn the things that need to be known - but because it is a convenient way to handle and track large numbers of children. The school curriculum is understandable only in the context of bringing administrative order out of daily chaos, of giving direction to frustrated children and unpredictable teachers. It is a system that staggers ever onward but never upward, and every morning we read about the results in our newspapers.Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge.
But despite the differences between the school environment and the home, many parents begin homeschooling under the impression that it can be pursued only by following some variation of the traditional public school curriculum in the home. Preoccupied with the idea of "equivalent education", state and local education officials assume that we must share their educational goals and that we homeschool simply because we don't want our children to be inside their buildings. Textbook and curriculum publishing companies go to great lengths to assure us that we must buy their products if we expect our children to be properly educated. As if this were not enough, there are national, state, and local support organizations that have practically adopted the use of the traditional curriculum and the school-in-the-home image of homeschooling as a de facto membership requirement. In the midst of all this, it can be difficult for a new homeschooling family to think that an alternative approach is possible.
One alternative approach is "unschooling", also known as "natural learning", "experience-based learning", or "independent learning". Several weeks ago, when our homeschooling support group announced a gathering to discuss unschooling, we thought a dozen or so people might attend, but more than 100 adults and children showed up. For three hours, parents and some of the children took turns talking about their homeschooling experiences and about unschooling. Many people said afterward that they left the meeting feeling reinforced and exhilarated - not because anybody told them what to do or gave them a magic formula - but because they grew more secure in making these decisions for themselves. Sharing ideas about this topic left them feeling empowered.

Before I talk about what I think unschooling is, I must talk about what it isn't. Unschooling isn't a recipe, and therefore it can't be explained in recipe terms. It is impossible to give unschooling directions for people to follow so that it can be tried for a week or so to see if it works. Unschooling isn't a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them - without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do.
Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Finally, since many unschooling families have definite plans for college, unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of a school.

Then what is unschooling? I can't speak for every person who uses the term, but I can talk about my own experiences. Our son has never had an academic lesson, has never been told to read or to learn mathematics, science, or history. Nobody has told him about phonics. He has never taken a test or been asked to study or memorize anything. When people ask, "What do you do?" My answer is that we follow our interests - and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music - all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as "subjects".

A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can't buy with a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, "doing real things" invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge. It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling.
While few of us get out of bed in the morning in the mood for a "learning experience", I hope that all of us get up feeling in the mood for life. Children always do so - unless they are ill or life has been made overly stressful or confusing for them. Sometimes the problem for the parent is that it can be difficult to determine if anything important is actually going on. It is a little like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we examine the garden, it is difficult to verify that anything is happening at that particular moment. But as the season progresses, we can see that much has happened, quietly and naturally. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.

Parents come to our unschooling discussions with many questions about fulfilling state requirements. They ask: "How do unschoolers explain themselves to the state when they fill out the paperwork every year?", "If you don't use a curriculum, what do you say?" and "What about required record-keeping?" To my knowledge, unschoolers have had no problems with our state department of education over matters of this kind. This is a time when even many public school educators are moving away from the traditional curriculum, and are seeking alternatives to fragmented learning and drudgery.

When I fill out the paperwork required for homeschooling in our state, I briefly describe, in the space provided, what we are currently doing, and the general intent of what we plan to do for the coming year. I don't include long lists of books or describe any of the step-by-step skills associated with a curriculum. For example, under English/Language Arts, I mentioned that our son's favorite "subject" is the English language. I said a few words about our family library. I mentioned that our son reads a great deal and uses our computer for whatever writing he happens to do. I concluded that, "Since he already does so well on his own, we have decided not to introduce language skills as a subject to be studied. It seems to make more sense for us to leave him to his own continuing success."

Unschooling is a unique opportunity for each family to do whatever makes sense for the growth and development of their children. If we have a reason for using a curriculum and traditional school materials, we are free to use them. They are not a universally necessary or required component of unschooling, either educationally or legally.

Allowing curriculums, textbooks, and tests to be the defining, driving force behind the education of a child is a hindrance in the home as much as in the school - not only because it interferes with learning, but because it interferes with trust. As I have mentioned, even educators are beginning to question the pre-planned, year-long curriculum as an out-dated, 19th century educational system. There is no reason that families should be less flexible and innovative than schools.

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's mentor and friend, said:
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less "showily". Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself... Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.
Unschooling provides a unique opportunity to step away from systems and methods, and to develop independent ideas out of actual experiences, where the child is truly in pursuit of knowledge, not the other way around.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth

A few readers who read my birth story have inquired about the Bradley Method, so I thought I'd share the website here:

These classes were invaluable!  I highly recommend them to anyone who is pregnant.  We took the hospital classes at Hoag Hospital during my first pregnancy and WOW, those hospital classes, even at the prestigious Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, cannot come close in comparison to the Bradley classes.  I also recommend hiring a doula, especially to those planning a natural childbirth in a hospital setting.

Best wishes for a safe and healthy pregnancy and labor!  The way I see it now that I know what I know, you wouldn't take drugs while pregnant, so why would you take them during labor?  They *do* pass through the placenta to the baby.  They *glossed* over this fact in the hospital childbirth classes.  Oh boy, I could go on and on...don't get me started on circumcision!

"More broth, please!"

"Is that apple juice in your baby's sippy cup?"

"Um, no, it looks like apple juice, but it's homemade chicken broth."

OK so this conversation didn't really take place, but I imagine people assume it's apple juice in my little one's sippy cup LOL!  I don't know too many moms who put chicken broth in their little one's sippy cup, do you?

Here's the story.  My ten month old always wants what his older brother is drinking.  Problem is, we're still going strong nursing and I don't want him filling up on water or juice when he should only be drinking breast milk at this point as far as fluids go.  But the poor boy feels so left out and screams something terrible for a sip of big brother's drink.  So since I try to make homemade chicken broth to drink throughout the week every week, I decided to let him sip on some broth in this super cool eco-friendly sippy cup when the occasion arises.  After all, chicken broth *is* highly nutritious.  Check this out (from Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, full text here):

"Good broth will resurrect the dead," says a South American proverb. Said Escoffier: "Indeed, stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done."
A cure-all in traditional households and the magic ingredient in classic gourmet cuisine, stock or broth made from bones of chicken, fish and beef builds strong bones, assuages sore throats, nurtures the sick, puts vigor in the step and sparkle in love life--so say grandmothers, midwives and healers. For chefs, stock is the magic elixir for making soul-warming soups and matchless sauces.
Meat and fish stocks play a role in all traditional cuisines—French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern and Russian. In America, stock went into gravy and soups and stews. That was when most animals were slaughtered locally and nothing went to waste. Bones, hooves, knuckles, carcasses and tough meat went into the stock pot and filled the house with the aroma of love. Today we buy individual filets and boneless chicken breasts, or grab fast food on the run, and stock has disappeared from the American tradition.

Grandmother Knew Best

Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
Fish stock, according to traditional lore, helps boys grow up into strong men, makes childbirth easy and cures fatigue. "Fish broth will cure anything," is another South American proverb. Broth and soup made with fishheads and carcasses provide iodine and thyroid-strengthening substances.
When broth is cooled, it congeals due to the presence of gelatin. The use of gelatin as a therapeutic agent goes back to the ancient Chinese. Gelatin was probably the first functional food, dating from the invention of the "digestor" by the Frenchman Papin in 1682. Papin's digestor consisted of an apparatus for cooking bones or meat with steam to extract the gelatin. Just as vitamins occupy the center of the stage in nutritional investigations today, so two hundred years ago gelatin held a position in the forefront of food research. Gelatin was universally acclaimed as a most nutritious foodstuff particularly by the French, who were seeking ways to feed their armies and vast numbers of homeless in Paris and other cities. Although gelatin is not a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, helping the poor stretch a few morsels of meat into a complete meal. During the siege of Paris, when vegetables and meat were scarce, a doctor named Guerard put his patients on gelatin bouillon with some added fat and they survived in good health.
The French were the leaders in gelatin research, which continued up to the 1950s. Gelatin was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer. Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk. The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut. Even the epicures recognized that broth-based soup did more than please the taste buds. "Soup is a healthy, light, nourishing food" said Brillant-Savarin, "good for all of humanity; it pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion..."
Sally Fallon's Homemade Chicken Broth Recipe:

Chicken Stock

1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.
If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.
Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paleo Ranch Dressing Recipe

I love me some ranch dressing!  On salads, with veggie dippers, with paleo chicken nuggets, you name it!  Since I avoid dairy, I set out to find an easy paleo version and found one here.  It was so good I just had it over a salad for my morning snack and Noah dipped some carrots in it and then decided to drink it straight he liked it so much! 

Paleo Ranch Dressing Recipe:

Blend the following ingredients in a food processor or blender and you're good to go!

1 cup mayo (make your own)
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tsp dill
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pepper to taste

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Paleo "Porridge" Recipe

My older boy loves Grimm's fairy tales, and he is especially fond of a little tale called Sweet Porridge.  I've always told him that porridge is kind of like oatmeal and then one day I decided to find out what it really is.

According to The Free Dictionary, porridge is:  A soft food made by boiling oatmeal or another meal in water or milk.

OK, so I was right :)

We used to eat oatmeal round here and I would still make it once in a while for Noah, but I wondered if I could find a grain-free substitute to keep our insulin levels in check and to avoid the ill effects of grain consumption.  I headed over to one of my favorite foodie bloggers, Elana's Pantry (We just tried her paleo bread recipe and we're hooked!) and found a real winner.  This one's packed with healthy fats, protein, and loads of vitamins and minerals, plus it tastes fantastic!  I top mine with a little stevia and a few raisins while Noah likes maple syrup in his.  Oatmeal can no longer compete in our house!

Here's the recipe folks (I have been making ours sans pumpkin seeds and subbing the walnuts for almonds).
(Original recipe by Andrea Nakayama).

Gluten Free Porridge

printer friendly
  1. Combine all ingredients in the dry container of a Vitamix or food processor.
  2. Blend until finely ground (you can try a coffee grinder, I have not, so not sure if it works)
  3. Transfer mixture to a bowl
  4. Pour hot water over mixture, stir, then let sit for 5 minutes to thicken
  5. Garnish with raisins, sunflower seeds or treats of your choice
  6. Serve

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Grains Are Unhealthy - Part 2

I feel like my last post regarding grains was a little wimpy, so Mark Sisson from Mark's Daily Apple is here to help.  (Full text and references here

Why Grains are Unhealthy
by Mark Sisson

I find that grain bashing makes for a tasty, but ultimately unsatisfying meal.

You all know how much I love doing it, though. But no matter how often I sit down to dine on the stuff (and I’ve done it with great gusto in the past), I always leave the table feeling like I left something behind. Like maybe I wasn’t harsh enough about the danger of gluten, or I failed to really convey just how much I hated lectins. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the mere mention of grains was eliciting a crazy insulin-esque response and throwing my satiety hormones all out of whack. I was filling up on anti-grain talk, but I just couldn’t fill that void for long.

Well, I’ve got the hunger today, and this time I aim to stuff myself to the point of perpetual sickness. I don’t ever want to have to look at another anti-grain argument again (yeah, right). If things get a little disjointed, or if I descend into bullet points and sentence fragments, it’s only because the hunger has taken over and I’ve decided to dispense with the pleasantries in order to lay it all out at once.

So please, bear with me.

Apart from maintaining social conventions in certain situations and obtaining cheap sugar calories, there is absolutely no reason to eat grains. Believe me – I’ve searched far and wide and asked everyone I can for just one good reason to eat cereal grains, but no one can do it. They may have answers, but they just aren’t good enough. For fun, though, let’s see take a look at some of the assertions:

“You need the fiber!”

Okay, for one: no, I don’t. If you’re referring to its oft-touted ability to move things along in the inner sanctum, fiber has some unintended consequences. A few years back, scientists found that high-fiber foods “bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering” which “increases the level of lubricating mucus.” Err, that sounds positively awful. Banging and tearing? Rupturing? These are not the words I like to hear. But wait! The study’s authors say, “It’s a good thing.” Fantastic! So when all those sticks and twigs rub up against my fleshy interior and literally rupture my intestinal lining, I’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s all part of the plan, right?

Somehow, I’m not convinced that a massive daily infusion of insoluble grain fiber is all that essential. And that “lubricating mucus” sounds an awful like the mucus people with irritable bowel syndrome complain about. From personal experience I can tell you that once I completed my exodus from grains, the IBS completely stopped. If you’re not yet convinced on the fiber issue I’ll refer you to Konstantin Monastyrsky’s Fiber Menace. Anyway, there’s plenty of fiber in the vegetables and fruit I eat. Which takes me to the next claim:

“You need the vitamins and minerals!”

You got me. I do need vitamins and minerals, like B1 and B2, magnesium and iron, zinc and potassium. But do I need to obtain them by eating a carb-heavy, bulky grain? No, no I don’t. You show me a serving of “healthy whole grains” that can compete – nutrient, vitamin, and mineral-wise – with a Big Ass Salad. What’s that? Can’t do it? Thought so.

“But it forms the foundation of the governmental food pyramid!”

You know, I should have just started the entire post with this one. I could have saved my fingers the trouble of typing and your eyes the trouble of reading. Governmental endorsements are not points in your favor, grain-eater; they are strikes against you. An appeal to authority (unless that “authority” is actually a preponderance of scientific evidence, of course) does not an effective argument make. Conventional Wisdom requires consistent, steady dissection and criticism if it is to be of any value.
There’s a reason grains are first and foremost on the list of foods to avoid when following the Primal Blueprint: they are completely and utterly pointless in the context of a healthy diet. In fact, if your average unhealthy person were to ask for the top three things to avoid in order to get healthy, I would tell them to stop smoking, to stop drinking their calories (as soda or juice), and to stop eating grains. Period. Full stop. They really are that bad.

I’ve mentioned this time and again, but the fundamental problem with grains is that they are a distinctly Neolithic food that the human animal has yet to adapt to consuming. In fact, cereal grains figured prominently in the commencement of the New Stone Age; grains were right there on the forefront of the agricultural revolution. Hell, they were the agricultural revolution – einkorn wheat, emmer, millet, and spelt formed the backbone of Neolithic farming. They could be stored for months at a time, they were easy enough to grow in massive enough quantities to support a burgeoning population, and they promoted the construction of permanent settlements. Oh, and they were easily hoarded, meaning they were probably an early form of currency (and, by extension, a potential source of income inequality). And here’s the kicker: they were harsh, tough things that probably didn’t even taste very good. It also took a ton of work just to make them edible, thanks to their toxic anti-nutrients.

Toxic anti-nutrients? Do tell.

Living things generally do not want to be consumed by other living things. Being digested, for the most part, tends to interrupt survival, procreation, propagation of the species – you know, standard stuff that fauna and flora consider pretty important. To avoid said consumption, living things employ various self defense mechanisms. Rabbits, for example, with their massive ears, considerable fast-twitch muscle fibers, and nasty claws, can usually hear a predator coming, outrun (out-hop?) nearly anything, and (in a pinch) slash a tender belly to shreds. Blue whales are too big to fit into your mouth, while porcupines are walking reverse pincushions. Point is, animals have active defense mechanisms. They run, fight, jump, climb, fly, sting, bite, and even appeal to our emotions (if you’ve ever seen a puppy beg for a treat with sad eyes, you know that isn’t just accidental cuteness) in order to survive. All the while, predators are constantly evolving and generating adaptations.

Plants, though, are passive organisms without the ability to move, think, and react (for the most part). They must employ different tactics to ensure propagation, and they generally have to rely on outside forces to spread their seed. And so various methods are “devised” to dissuade consumption long enough for the seed to get to where it’s going. Nuts have those tough shells, and grains have the toxic anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten, and phytates. (Of course there are some obvious exceptions. Fruits are tasty, nutritious, and delicious so that animals will eat them whole and poop out the seeds, preferably into some fertile soil. The seed stays intact throughout the digestive process; it is indigestible by design. No seed “wants” to be digested, because this would defeat the purpose. They “want” to be swallowed, or borne by the wind, or carried by a bee to the next flower, but they do not want to be digested.)

Some animals are clearly adapted to grain consumption. Birds, rodents, and some insects can deal with the anti-nutrients. Humans, however, cannot. Perhaps if grains represented a significant portion of our ancestral dietary history, things might be a bit different. Some of us can digest dairy, and we’ve got the amylase enzyme present in our saliva to break down starches if need be, but we simply do not have the wiring necessary to mitigate the harmful effects of lectins, gluten, and phytate.

Lectins are bad. They bind to insulin receptors, attack the stomach lining of insects, bind to human intestinal lining, and they seemingly cause leptin resistance. And leptin resistance predicts a “worsening of the features of the metabolic syndrome independently of obesity”. Fun stuff, huh?

Gluten might be even worse. Gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a composite of the proteins giladin and glutenin. Around 1% of the population are celiacs, people who are completely and utterly intolerant of any gluten. In celiacs, any gluten in the diet can be disastrous. We’re talking compromised calcium and vitamin D3 levels, hyperparathyroidism, bone defects. Really terrible stuff. And it gets worse: just because you’re not celiac doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible to the ravages of gluten. As Stephan highlights, one study showed that 29% of asymptomatic (read: not celiac) people nonetheless tested positive for anti-gliadin IgA in their stool. Anti-gliadin IgA is an antibody produced by the gut, and it remains there until it’s dispatched to ward off gliadin – a primary component of gluten. Basically, the only reason anti-gliadin IgA ends up in your stool is because your body sensed an impending threat – gluten. If gluten poses no threat, the anti-gliadin IgA stays in your gut. And to think, most Americans eat this stuff on a daily basis.

Phytates are a problem, too, because they make minerals bio-unavailable (so much for all those healthy vitamins and minerals we need from whole grains!), thus rendering null and void the last, remaining argument for cereal grain consumption.

What, then, is the point to all this grain madness? Is there a good reason for anyone (with access to meat, fruit, and vegetables, that is) to rely on cereal grains for a significant portion of their caloric intake?
The answer is unequivocally, undeniably no. We do not need grains to survive, let alone thrive. In fact, they are naturally selected to ward off pests, whether they be insects or hominids. I suggest we take the hint and stop eating them.

And with that, I’m done. I don’t think I could eat another bite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My New Favorite Green Beauty Product

I started using Destiny Boutique's charcoal facial soap right before my last pregnancy and fell in love!  It sucked the nasties out of my pores whilst keeping my drier skin hydrated.  I had to stop using it while pregnant because it has peppermint essential oil in it (a no-no during pregnancy) but now I'm back at it again!  Another bonus is that this soap is rated a coveted "zero" according to the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

For those of you in the OC wanting to try it, Mother's and Whole Foods carries it for around $8-$9.  Also, check this out:

"Directions for Greener Tomorrow: Before using please remove the wildflower seed label from the soap. The handmade recycled paper could be the inspiration of your very own wildflower garden. Just plant it, and love it and watch it sprout."

How cool is that?

From the company's website:

Amazing all natural soap made with good stuff that gently draws out toxic impurities that can clog pores. 100% great soap fortified with anti-aging shea butter and argan oil that you can use safely each day without your skin ever drying out. Your skin feels softer, smoother and radiantly healthy.

Charcoal - not the one from your BBQ grill, but the specially processed activated kind - can adsorb nasty organics and environmental junk better than any other known substance rendering them ineffective and harmless.

Charcoal can do these various things because of its ability to attract other substances to its surface and hold them there by adsorption. One teaspoon of activated charcoal has a surface area of more than a football field.

Charcoal has proven track record for its detoxifying power. Ancient physicians including Hippocrates recommended the use of charcoal for medicinal purposes. North American Indians used it for skin infections. In Asia it has been used for centuries to whiten the skin. It is also legendarily used to unclog pores, remove impurities and dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin, resulting supple, delicate and smooth skin.

The black soap is scented with peppermint and tea tree essential oil to further give you the edge of the ultimately healthy skin.

Destiny Boutique's artisan handcrafted bars are handcut and weigh minimum 6 oz. Some variation is expected. One 6 ounce bar will last you an average of 3-4 weeks in the bath and longer at the sink provided the soap is kept dry when not in use.

Ingredients: naturally occurring glycerin, sodium cocoate (coconut), sodium palmate (palm), sodium olivate (olive), sodium soybeanate (soy), argania spinosa (argan) oil, raw and unrefined butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), mentha piperita (peppermint) essential oil, activated charcoal, hydrolyzed wild cruelty free tussah silk fibers, melaleuca alternofolia (tea tree) essential oil.

Skin Deep rating:0

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Primal" Birthing

I've been following the blog The Healthy Skeptic and love all Chris Kesser has to say on, well, everything!  I started following his blog to learn more about healthy eating, but now that he discusses natural childbirth, I love the blog even more! 

Lots of women I know are pregnant right now so I thought I'd post this tidbit on natural childbirth...

Natural childbirth III: why undisturbed birth?

July 21, 2011 in Fertility, Pregnancy & Childbirth

Spontaneous labor in a normal woman is an event marked by a number of processes so complicated and so perfectly attuned to each other that any interference will only detract from the optimal character. The only thing reqired from the bystanders is that they show respect for this awe-inspiring process by complying with the first rule of medicine – nil nocere [do no harm]

G.J. Kloosterman, The Universal Aspects of Childbirth

In the wild, mammals isolate themselves during labor.

A pregnant sheep, which is normally a herd dweller, will separate herself from the flock when birth becomes imminent. A rhesus monkey will move away from her group to the edge of the forest and choose a well-camoflauged hiding place in which to give birth. The rat, which is normally a nocturnal prowler, gives birth during the day to increase the chances that she’ll be unobserved. And the horse, which is normally a daytime grazer, gives birth during the night for the same reason.

Human beings are mammals

As often as we forget this, human beings are mammals. We share the same 175 million year evolutionary heritage of birth with other mammals. These similarities should be starting point when try understand the process of normal, undisturbed birth in our own species.

Like our mammalian relatives, human females are designed to give birth safely in the wild without supervision or medical intervention. It is as natural to us as eating, breathing, digestion, elimination and sleeping. It’s in our genes.

As physician and natural childbirth advocate Michel Odent reminds us:

When you consider birth as an involuntary process involving old, mammalian structures of the brain, you set aside the assumption that a woman must learn to give birth. It is implicit in the mammalian interpretation that one cannot actively help a woman to give birth. The goal is to avoid disturbing her unnecessarily. 1

Traditional humans also isolate themselves during labor

In a film about birht among the Eipos tribe of Papa New Guinea, ethologist Wulf Schniefenhovel documents mothers-to-be leaving their village and going into the bush just prior to giving birth.

Isolating oneself in this way has been the norm in traditional societies around the world, including the Kung San in Africa, the Turkomans in Central Asia and First Nations tribes in Canada.

In an eighteenth-century, firsthand account of birth practices in a tribe of Canadian Indians found in a Paris library, J-C B. explains1:

Women usually give birth by themselves and without any difficulty, and always away from their own homes in small huts which have been built in the forest for this purpose, 40 or 50 days beforehand. Sometimes they even give birth in their fields.

It’s worth noting that in these societies where women isolate themselves during labor, deliveries are often reported as being easy, almost to the point of seeming effortless to observers.

Why would this be? How does privacy and isolation contribute to easier and less complicated labor?

What kind of environment inhibits a female in labor?

To answer those questions, we can look at studies of mammalian birth carried out by Niles Newton in Chicago during the 1960s.

Newton studied birth in several mammals, but focused on mice in particular. She analyzed the factors that made deliveries longer, more difficult, and more dangerous.

She found that labor could be slowed or even stopped completely by:

  • Placing the laboring mother in an unfamiliar environment (a place where the sights and smells are not what she’s accustomed to).
  • Moving the mother from one place to another during birth.
  • Putting the mice in a transparent cage made of glass and observing them.

Does this sound familiar? Each of these things happens in a conventional hospital birth. The mother is moved during labor from her home, which is familiar, to a hospital, which is unfamiliar, and observed by a staff of people she has little connection to or experience with.

Although we are not mice, we do share similar needs as other mammals during labor. Anything that disturbs a laboring woman’s sense of safety and privacy will disrupt the birth process.

This definition unfortunately covers most of modern obstetrics, which has created an entire industry around the observation and monitoring of pregnant women. As Dr. Sarah Buckley observes 3:

Some of the techniques used are painful or uncomfortable, most involve some transgression of bodily or social boundaries, and almost all techniques are performed by people who are essentially strangers to the woman herself.

Underlying these procedures, Buckley says, is a fundamental distrust of women’s bodies and the natural processes of birth. This distrust has a powerful “nocebo” effect and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where women are almost certain to need the interventions that the medical model provides and feel grateful for them no matter how traumatic the experience.

Because of this, many women in western culture have come to expect birth to be a medical emergency – rather than a natural, instinctual process – that requires medical management and intervention.

The hormonal orchestration of an undisturbed birth

The hormonal orchestration of birth is an exceedingly sophisticated and complex process that is still not well understood.

In fact, we still don’t know what causes the onset of birth. We know that estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and SP-A are all implicated, but we don’t know exactly how they work together. This is another reason why it’s so important to minimize interference in the natural birth process; we are more likely to cause problems with intervention than solve them.

A perfect example of this is fetal heart monitoring with ultrasound during labor. The pretense for this type of monitoring is that it will catch a potential problem and thus make the mother and baby safer.

However, studies show just the opposite is true. A large review published in Lancet in 1987 covering tens of thousands of births in Australia, Europe and the U.S. found that the only statistically significant effect of continuous fetal heart monitoring during labor was an increase in the rate of Caesarians and forceps deliveries.

The hormones involved in orchestrating mammalian birth are secreted by brain’s most primitive structure, the limbic system. The limbic system is not in our conscious control. For birth to happen optimally, we need to give this more primitive part of the brain precedence over the “rational brain” (the neocortex).

Anything that inhibits this shift of consciousness – including fetal heart monitoring, bright lighting, conversation, observation and expectations of “rational” behavior – will very likely interrupt the natural birth process.

Conversely, when we provide the right environment for a woman during labor – conditions in which she feels safe, private and unobserved – we facilitate the instinctual coordination of birth that is part of every woman’s genetic heritage.

Dr. Buckley observes4:

Undisturbed birth represents the smoothest hormonal orchestration of the birth process, and therefore the easiest transition possible; physiologically, hormonally, psychologically, and emotionally, from pregnancy and birth to new motherhood and lactation, for each woman. When a mother’s hormonal orchestration is undisturbed, her baby’s safety is also enhanced, not only during labor and delivery, but also in the critical postnatal transition from womb to world.

This, together with modern hygiene and the availability of advanced emergency medical techniques, give us a better chance of an easy and safe birth than any of our ancestors have had in the history of the human race.

In the next few articles in this series, we’ll be exploring the hormones involved in the birth process and how medical procedures such as epidurals and induction with synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) interfere with the exquisitely regulated (and still poorly understood) hormonal orchestration of undisturbed birth.

Odent M. Birth and breastfeeding: rediscovering the needs of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Clairview Books 2007. ↩

Odent M. Birth and breastfeeding: rediscovering the needs of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Clairview Books 2007. ↩

Buckley S. Gentle birth, gentle mothering: a doctor’s guide to natural childbirth and early parenting choices. Celestial Arts 2009. pp.96 ↩

Buckley S. Gentle birth, gentle mothering: a doctor’s guide to natural childbirth and early parenting choices. Celestial Arts 2009. pp.97 ↩