Epsom Salts – 8 Amazing Benefits & Uses

Every night when my father came home from work, he used to take a bowl of warm water, add a spoon of Epsom Salts, and soak his feet. It’s natural enough to want to soak your feet after a hard day of working on the farm, especially as his days were often long.

I never gave any thought to addition of the Epsom Salts so I did not ask why he did this. He is now nearly eighty and during a recent visit to the chiropodist, he was told that he had the feet of a young man. As he told me this, I made a quick mental note and fleetingly thought that perhaps it was something to do with soaking his feet for all those years.

I thought that it was a daft notion, but decided to see what I could find out about the properties of Epsom Salts. I became more interested when I discovered that many spa salons also use them as a foot soak to help cleanse the feet of impurities. This was just the start of things and I discovered that Epsom Salts have numerous applications for humans, animals, and plants. For the moment, I will only be focusing on its benefits to humans.

Health Benefits Of Epsom Salts

Improve Digestion: John Pollard describes “The Gallbladder Flush” in his book, “The Digestive Awareness Diet”. This flush involves drinking a large amount of organic apple juice for three days, drinking a mixture of grapefruit juice and olive oil and drinking Epsom Salts the following morning.  The premise of this is that the apple juice will soften the gallbladder and loosen the stools, and the Epsom salts will evacuate the toxins dumped into the digestive tube to improve digestion. Please note that this is only a quick overview of the process.

Remove Gallstones: There are several other books that mention the Epsom salts detox and the reason it is as effective as a detox is because it acts as a laxative. It also opens the capillaries and is therefore effective in removing gallstones.

Relief from muscular pain: An Epsom salts bath can promote detoxification through the skin and they are traditionally used as a soaking agent to bring relief from muscular pain and stiffness.

Rich in Magnesium: Epsom salt is magnesium sulphate and according to the National Academy of Sciences, the majority of people living in America today are deficient in magnesium. This is related to fast-food living, as well as modern farming methods.

The Academy believes that this is why there is such a high incidence of stress-related illnesses, digestive problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, heart disease, and strokes. Bathing with Epsom salts not only makes magnesium readily available to the body, but it also draws out toxins, and as magnesium is a natural stress reliever, the bath lifts the mood and aids in relaxation.

Improve circulation and lower blood pressure: Research indicates that raising magnesium levels can promote a healthy heart by improving circulation and lowering blood pressure. It also improves the body’s capacity to use insulin. Magnesium is necessary to sustain calcium levels in the blood.

Sulphates are not easily obtained through the food we eat but are absorbed through the skin. These stimulate the pancreas to make digestive enzymes and assist in detoxifying the body. Epsom Salt flushes toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body to eliminate harmful substances.

Also see

Corns and Calluses: Causes & Home Remedies
11 Effective Home Remedies for Heliobacter Pylori Infection
Used in Aromatherapy: Epsom salts are a natural emollient and exfoliator and many aromatherapy skin care products incorporate carrier oils, essential oils, and sea salt with Epsom salts. With a little know how, it is easy to experiment and make your own skin scrubs and cleansers.

Conditioner: Mixing Epsom salts and a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a good hair conditioner will add body to the hair.

Facial Cleanser: Mixing half a teaspoon of Epsom salts into any cleansing cream will make an effective facial cleanser, which can then be massaged into the skin and rinsed off with lukewarm water. An excellent homemade skin mask can be made from a tablespoon of cognac, a quarter cup of dried milk powder, the juice of a lemon, five drops of lavender essential oil, and half a teaspoon of Epsom salt. This is suitable for normal and oily skin.

For those with dry skin, two teaspoons of mayonnaise, five drops of lavender essential oil, a quarter of a cup of grated carrots, and half a teaspoon of Epsom salts should be mixed together.

Experts say that soaking in an Epsom salts bath at least three times a week will help us feel better, look better, and have more energy. So, maybe its time that I took a leaf out of my father’s book.

Written by HealthyNewAge, the natural care web site and blog

Bipolar & Marriage: How to Grow Stronger as a Couple

When a mental illness suddenly appears in a relationship, it can shake the foundation of a marriage. While dealing with the erratic behavior of a spouse in mania or depression is difficult, through counseling, love and acceptance of the illness, partners can grow even stronger as a couple.

Mood changes

It’s stressful for a spouse to deal with the confusion of ever-changing moods from his bipolar partner. It helps for this spouse to view his continued support of his partner as an investment in something worthwhile.

Confusion and chaos

When symptoms of bipolar first begin to surface, most spouses aren’t sure what to think—they’re confused. Amid the chaos of behaviors they fear they’ll never see the person they’d fallen in love with.

When sympathy isn’t enough

When a spouse is first diagnosed, the initial response from the partner is usually sympathy, until down the road they could feel anger, frustration and even hate, says sociology professor and author David A. Karp, Ph.D. “Indeed, caring for someone who has a mental illness can be more draining than caring for someone with cancer.” In that case the spouse is usually met with gratitude and not anger if the partner is denying the diagnosis and treating her like the enemy.

Reaching acceptance

If a spouse can move through these times, he or she will reach a place of acceptance, says Karp. “Those difficult emotions will then be replaced with softer feelings of love and compassion.” By accepting that life looks different than originally one imagined doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good life.

Redefining spousal expectations

Transformation means redrawing the picture of what a couple once thought life would look like. For some, that may mean having to rely on only one income, going without certain luxuries or even choosing not to start a family. For others, it may mean that many of the responsibilities of daily life fall on the well partner.

Sharing responsibility

Couples who seem to have the most success share the belief that the partner with bipolar shares an equal responsibility within the relationship. If bipolar is biological then the mate does have some control over his behavior and should shoulder some responsibility to help themselves, unless they are extremely manic or depressed are temporarily unable to.

Self-sufficiency during periods of wellness

In cases where one partner has bipolar and the marriage ends, it’s usually because the healthy spouse feels he or she has done everything they can to help the other person become well, but nothing has made the situation better. During periods of wellness, the partner owes it to their spouse to work diligently to stay well.

Preparing ahead

In periods of wellness, successful couples will prepare for episodes that may lie ahead. That may mean realigning chequing accounts or giving power of attorney as a means of limiting control to the ill spouse during manic episodes. Some couples will have a list of symptoms the bipolar spouse exhibits when on the brink of a manic or depressive episode and agree at what point to seek help, thus removing the emotions from such a decision.

Carrying the burden

Following a diagnosis many spouses are left with most of the responsibilities of their life together—from caring for the children to working to pay the bills to caring for their ill partner. It’s a heavy burden for many.

Drawing boundary lines

Many spouses struggle with how to help the person they love without becoming engulfed in the spouse’s misery or mania. They may even feel their own identifies are being buried—they are losing themselves or jeopardizing their own health. Spouses must learn to draw a boundary line, or risk losing themselves, Dr. Karp says.

Mutual wellness

Many couples attribute their successful marriages to a commitment to mutual and personal wellness. This could mean daily exercise, eating well, good sleep habits and focusing on the wonderful things shared by both. Both partners need to decide to want their relationships to work and they will start looking for ways to make it work.

Moving forward

Dr. David A. Karp argues that sometimes the well spouse has to withdraw. It may sound harsh, but it’s health. He says spouses must learn to take care of themselves before they can take care of others. It’s important for the well spouse to fulfill her own goals, and continue to move forward, even when her partner is struggling.

SOUNDOFF! Psychiatrists & Therapists

What do you like most about your psychiatrist or therapist, or what really bugs you the most?

What I like most about my psychiatrist and therapist is that they both take the time to really listen to what I tell them. They are very compassionate and supportive. They treat me as an individual whom they want to help, and not just another dollar figure.


—Name withheld, Spokane, WA

I most like the way my psychiatrist and therapist work with me, allowing my input regarding medications and therapy. I do not like that my meds management is handled primarily by my psychiatrist’s nurse practitioner. Appointments with my psychiatrist are few and far between.
—C. W.

I’d like to discuss my 12-year-old son’s team. His therapist and psychiatrist work together. Their philosophy is to combine evidence-based research and determining values, beliefs, and lifestyle of individual patients to create individualized, successful treatment plans. During our first appointment, I was impressed when I was screened for depression, knowing that it is not uncommon for the main caretaker of a special needs child to suffer from depression. I have never felt rushed during an appointment. My concerns are never undermined, and our psychiatrist welcomes ideas that I have found in my own research. Our psychiatrist returns calls the same day, and answers emergency calls within minutes, 24/7. He is on staff at a wonderful child/adolescent psychiatric hospital. When my son has needed hospitalization, our psychiatrist has been the attending doctor and his therapist also sees him in the hospital. Both have been actively involved in seeing that my son receives an appropriate Individualized Education Plan at school. Most importantly, our psychiatrist knows how to successfully treat bipolar disorder. Our team is awesome!
—J. E., Delavan, WI

I recently changed to a new psychiatrist. I appreciate his ability to listen. Although he does not have bipolar disorder and cannot feel what we go through, I know he takes me seriously when I tell him that I suffer. That understanding has to be there. The second part of your question applies to all the psychiatrists in my experience. They need to ask more questions. Because they are so used to our doing most of the talking, they almost plan for that [lack of two-way communication], except when we are in the depressed state. I would like them to ask how I feel. When I answer, I would like them to reply, “Why?” I would like to hear what they have learned about new research on bipolar and the various treatments and medications. All too frequently, the conversations are one-sided or perfunctory in nature. Psychiatrists need to laugh once in awhile. We are people with emotions and we like to laugh, too. We do appreciate their professionalism, but a human interaction with the patient is always nice—and much appreciated.
—Name Withheld, Portland, OR

I now have a wonderful and caring counselor who cares about my safety and well-being. Before being diagnosed with bipolar, I was misdiagnosed as having depression for most of my adult life. During my “mania,” I was always able to keep a job and have my own apartment and car. So doctors never realized I was bipolar. I’ve been seeing my counselor, Michele Bauman, for about 18 months. Recently, during a very rough time, I was alone and isolated with no phone in a small town. Suicide was all I thought about until my counselor helped me get into a group home in Buffalo, where I’m living now. Michele is helping me get my own apartment near the clinic where I go for activities and group counseling. She is the most hardworking and caring counselor I know. I want to thank her for doing so much for me. So, thank you, Michele.
—Name withheld, Buffalo, NY

We love our psychiatrist. He is up to date on all medications and conservative on dosages in treating two of our children for bipolar disorder. He also has a great sense of humor and is very compassionate. He is available by phone 24/7 and responds quickly. It has taken our family six years of searching to find this wonderful man. We had been to eight different psychiatrists until we found Dr. Peter Ampudia a year ago. As for a therapist, we have found that not many are knowledgeable regarding bipolar disorder in children. At this time, our family is not seeing a therapist because we just need a break from the “search and trial” period. Dr. Ampudia has been there for us as our therapist. We are still searching [for a therapist], however.
—P. B., Manhattan Beach, CA

The Link Between Mental Illness & Poor Oral Hygeine

Dental hygiene frequently gets ignored in favor for bipolar management. Regardless, it is still very important to take care of your teeth.

For Lisa K., the psychiatric challenges posed by her son’s mental illness were hard enough. Worrying about whether he was taking care of his teeth sometimes seemed like more than she could handle.

But Lisa, a dental hygienist, knew that both the symptoms of mental illness and some of the drugs used to treat them can lead to severe dental problems. “Many psychoactive medications cause dry mouth, which makes teeth much more prone to decay,” she says. “And life can be so disrupted by the other terrible stuff you have to face with an illness like bipolar disorder that dental care gets ignored. My son’s teeth were literally disintegrating.”

Eventually, he needed $10 thousand worth of dental reconstruction. Doctors have long known that mental illness is associated with poor dental care. But the extent of the problem still doesn’t receive the attention it should, experts say. When Arthur Friedlander, director of graduate medical education at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare and a professor of dentistry at UCLA, surveyed the dental health of patients with bipolar disorder, the results were shocking. “Patients admitted during a depressive episode had an almost total disregard for proper oral hygiene,” Friedlander wrote in a 2002 report in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Many had decayed or missing teeth. Those admitted to the hospital during extreme manic episodes had gums lacerated and abraded by obsessive over-brushing, and signs of damage from teeth grinding.

David Clark, a dentist at Whitby Mental Health Centre in Ontario, Canada, notes: “Many of the drugs used to treat bipolar disorder can cause xerostomia, or dry mouth due to lack of saliva, and that’s a serious problem, because saliva plays a key role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Along with containing antibacterial substances, it also plays a key role in rebuilding tooth enamel, which also helps prevent decay.”

Making matters worse, dry mouth can lead to cravings for sugared beverages. And the symptoms of bp often make it difficult for people to maintain healthy diets, further compromising dental health.

Other complicating factors affect the patients Clark sees. Smoking and substance abuse can both wreak havoc on teeth and gums. Amphetamines, for example, exacerbate dry mouth and teeth grinding, leading to more rapid deterioration and loss of teeth. “Smoking also contributes to dry mouth,” he explains. “It also affects the ability to heal, which adds to the risk of gum disease.”

Although most psychiatrists and dentists are aware of these compounding problems, treating them isn’t easy. “It’s one thing to tell someone with bipolar disorder that they need to take special care with their teeth and see a dentist regularly,” says Clark. “It’s another to get them to follow through.”

Patients admitted to Whitby Mental Health Centre are routinely given dental care. When they leave, they and their families are counseled to pay special attention to oral hygiene. Some do. But when many are readmitted, sometimes as little as six months later, Clark is often startled at the poor state of their teeth and gums.

Lisa K. knows how hard it can be. “When my son was feeling better, he would really take care of his teeth. But when he was going through a bad period, it was the last thing he was thinking about. You don’t have to go for too long not brushing your teeth before you have irreversible damage.”

Not long ago, Lisa began a one-woman campaign to bring attention to the problem. At a recent conference of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, she set up a booth on dental health. “People kept coming up and thanking me, saying they had no idea how serious a problem it was,” she says.

Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your teeth and gums. Among the most important advice:

Talk to your doctor about treatments for dry mouth. Several medications and mouthwashes can lubricate the mouth or increase saliva production.

Focus on a healthier diet. Sugary foods promote decay; vegetables and whole grains can help prevent it. Switching from sugared soft drinks to sugar-free alternatives can keep teeth and gums healthier.

Brush in the morning and evening and floss once a day. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush, which can make the task more efficient and pleasant.

Some models are equipped with electronic timers that beep when you’ve completed the recommended two minutes of brushing. If motivation is a problem, ask family or friends to remind you and give you an extra push.

If you smoke, get serious about quitting. Talk to your doctor about programs or nicotine replacement products.

See a dentist frequently. Although the usual advice is to schedule a checkup every six months, if you’re on medications that cause dry mouth you should see a dentist every three, Clark recommends. If cost is an issue, discounted dental care is available. University dental schools throughout Canada offer free or inexpensive care. In the States, the Health Resources and Services Administration offers a list of federally-funded dental clinics that provide care for people without insurance (www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov).

Finally, spread the word. For her part, Lisa Knapp has created a continuing education course that teaches dentists and dental hygienists about the effects of mental illness on oral health. “Many people still don’t realize the added risk of dental problems that people with mental illness face until it’s too late,” she says.

Editor’s Note: Shortly before she was interviewed for this story, Lisa K. lost her 24-year-old son to suicide. This summer, she received a national award for raising awareness about oral health in people with mental health disorders— work she continues in Jordan’s memory.

Bipolar Disorder & Dealing With Relapse

There may not ever be a last episode, but there are ways to fend off and mitigate the next one.

Doctors never talked to Elly L. about relapse.

Although she was hospitalized during a manic episode and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, doctors never mentioned that it could happen again. Instead, Elly was stabilized, handed a prescription for mood stabilizers and discharged. She had no idea that she’d be battling mania and depression for the rest of her life.

“I was told that as long as I took my medications, I’d be okay,” recalls Elly, a mental health coach in Toronto, Ontario.

Elly experienced at least eight relapses between her diagnosis in 1978 and 1991. Each time, she was hospitalized, often placed in restraints and taken to the psychiatric ward in a police car or ambulance. Upon discharge, Elly always promised herself it would be her last hospital admission—but she had no idea how to stave off future relapses.

In bipolar disorder, relapse is defined as the return of depression or a manic or hypomanic episode after a period of wellness. According to a 1999 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 73 percent of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder experienced at least one relapse over a five-year period; of those who relapsed, two-thirds had multiple relapses.

“You can never say that someone with bipolar disorder has had their last episode; relapse is part of the illness,” explains Alan C. Swann, MD, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and director of research for the University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center. “Relapse is self-perpetuating; once it happens, the more likely it is to happen again.”

Searching for answers

It’s possible to do all of the right things— follow a proper medication regimen, eat well, exercise, minimize stress and get enough sleep—and still experience relapse. Unfortunately, there is no clear understanding of why this happens.

“There may be changes in the cellular level that cause cycling but their cause is unknown,” says Joseph R. Calabrese, MD, director of the Mood Disorders Program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

While the neurological causes of relapse are unknown, a few things are certain: Those who are diagnosed with bipolar II are more likely to relapse than those with bipolar I. Their episodes of depression, mania or hypomania are often shorter than the episodes experienced by those with bipolar I but tend to return more often, according to Calabrese. It’s also far more common to relapse into depression than into mania or hypomania. Calabrese estimates that in bipolar II, there is a 40-to-1 ratio of depression to mania; the ratio of depression to mania drops to 3-to-1 in bipolar I.

I was told that as long as I took my medications, I’d be okay.- E.L.

“The key to recovery is a low tolerance for relapse,” says Calabrese.

In fact, Dr. Roger S. McIntyre, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto and head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the University Health Network, believes that even the mildest symptoms of depression and mania should be treated as potentially hazardous.

“The takeaway message is that we need to seek complete elimination of symptoms as our treatment objective,” he says.

Health implications

Aside from the obvious impacts of relapse, which can range from an increased need for sleep and low mood during depression to racing thoughts, sexual promiscuity and hospitalization during mania, there is another reason it’s important to protect against relapse.

It was like getting on a roller-coaster ride; I was excited about it.- M.A.

“People who have had multiple relapses—somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 relapses over a few decades—tend to have worse brain scans,” notes Allan Young, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and the director of the Institute of Mental Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

As a result of relapse, brain scans show a loss of brain volume and structure, a decrease in grey matter and tiny lesions in white matter, which may lead to impaired cognition and emotional regulation and, in extreme cases, fine level paralysis.

Relapse also contributes to metabolic syndrome, which includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol as well as an increased risk of heart disease, according to Calabrese. The more times relapse occurs, the more likely health problems are to develop.

“If you don’t worry about relapse, you’re allowing your illness to morph into increasingly longer and more severe periods of depression and mania and that’s where the morbidity, mortality and suffering occur,” says Calabrese.

Medication matters

For years after his 1997 diagnosis, Michael A. craved the high he felt during mania and often stopped taking his medication to trigger a relapse into a manic state.

“It was like getting on a roller-coaster ride; I was excited about it,” recalls the 40-year-old from Bronx, New York.

In 2002, after Michael intentionally relapsed into full-blown mania, he went on a spending spree and charged 15 video game consoles on his credit card. Hours later, the mania spiraled into depression and Michael was admitted to the hospital and placed on suicide watch. Over the course of eight years, he was hospitalized five times because he relapsed after discontinuing his medications.

“People who stop taking their meds have an 80 percent chance of relapsing within three months,” Young says. “Medication holds the illness in check; when you stop taking your medications, things go awry.”

Though medication remains one of the primary treatments for bipolar disorder, research has shown that regardless of the drug regimen, medication alone is not enough to prevent relapse.

Taking action

The best approach for preventing relapse is a combination of medication and the avoidance of activities that may trigger a new episode of illness.

It wasn’t until she started attending a support group through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that Adria A., 41, realized that she could have some control over bipolar disorder. Diagnosed in 2000, Adria relapsed twice before she was introduced to NAMI and encouraged to create a relapse prevention plan. Now, she keeps a poster-sized grid in her New York apartment to track her thoughts, feelings and actions in several areas of her life, including finances, family, employment and health, to identify possible triggers for relapse.

“Charting things helps me recognize patterns and keeps me from making poor choices,” says Adria. “When I feel like I’m experiencing a setback, I reach out to my support group or my therapist because I know I can’t let [my triggers] spiral into something I can’t handle.”

It’s been almost two years since Adria experienced her last relapse; she credits her relapse prevention plan with helping her take immediate action when faced with possible signs of relapse.

In 2007, a team of researchers at the Australia-based Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria found that participants with bipolar disorder who monitor their mood and recognize triggers and early warning signs of oncoming illness experienced half the number of relapses as the control group.

“If you can pick up on the early stages of relapse before it develops into a full-blown illness, you can decrease the length and severity of the episode,” says Swann. “Creating strategies aimed at heading episodes off early is so important.”

According to Swann, those with bipolar disorder often recognize a pattern of symptoms that precede relapse; the signs tend to be consistent for each person. For example, an increased need for sleep may signal a relapse into depression while irritability could be a sign of an oncoming manic or hypomanic episode.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) also appears to be an effective tool for combating relapse. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that MBCT, which uses cognitive therapy and meditation to help bipolar patients become more aware of their thoughts, helps reduce anxiety that may trigger relapse.

Elly started practicing yoga and meditation in the 1980s to help deal with racing thoughts. She still rolls out her yoga mat at least twice a day and believes it’s one of the reasons she hasn’t experienced a relapse since 1991.

I know I can’t let [my triggers] spiral into something I can’t handle. -A.A

“I started viewing bipolar disorder very holistically,” she says. “Yoga and meditation brought calmness and the deeper I got [into the practice], the more helpful it was at calming me down when I had racing thoughts or felt overwhelmed.”

A family affair

For Michael, who had eight relapses and several hospitalizations between 1997 and 2005, family was the key to managing his illness.

Michael acknowledges that his reckless behavior during mania had a profound impact on his life but it wasn’t until 2003, when he flew from New York to California without telling anyone of his plans, that he realized how his illness impacted his family and made the commitment to get well.

“My family was frantic and started thinking about calling the New York City morgue because they thought I might be dead,” Michael recalls. “I felt so bad when I heard that they lived in fear of my next relapse and I understood that being bipolar wasn’t just about me, it was about my family, too.”

As part of his commitment to preventing relapse, Michael attended therapy sessions with his parents. Over the course of five years, the therapist worked with the family to understand bipolar disorder and develop strategies to improve their communication skills and rebuild their relationship.

“I finally realized that what my family wants most is to prevent me from relapsing and going back into the hospital; they want me to be well,” says Michael. “It’s so nice to have people looking out for me because I don’t want to have another relapse and with their support, I know I have a better chance.”

According to a 2003 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, 35 percent of those who participated in family therapy experienced relapse after two years, compared with relapse rates of 54 percent for those who received no family therapy. Moreover, a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2010 found that family therapy reduced conflict, improved communication, increased empathy, leading to longer periods of wellness and less severe manic and depressive symptoms.

“Family members start recognizing that this is an illness, not something the patient is doing to make people angry or reflection of an ill temperament,” principal investigator David Miklowitz, PhD, wrote in the study. “When families start thinking of the behaviors associated with the disorder as biologically or genetically driven, they tend to be more tolerant.”

Attitude is everything

When 32-year-old Rachael B. was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003, her doctor emphasized the risk of relapse. Determined to avoid additional episodes of depression and mania, Rachael began tracking her moods, identifying triggers and taking steps to stay well, including eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. Over the next four years, she didn’t have a single relapse. She lapsed into countless periods of depression (and a few episodes of mania) again after her daughter was born in 2007.

“I knew when I decided to have a child that I was risking my mood stability,” says the Web consultant from Naples, Florida. “Sometimes, things are going really well one day and I wake up the next morning and I’m depressed. There are times that I’m nervous before bed because I never know what the next morning is going to bring.”

Though Rachael worries about the impact of her illness on her business and admits to feeling like a bad mother when she can’t get out of bed, she is convinced that she can regain control over her relapses. She tries to maintain a regular workout schedule, avoids processed foods and chemical additives, takes medication and sees a therapist on a regular basis. Over the past three years, she’s whittled the length of her depressive episodes from six weeks to two weeks and decreased their frequency, too.

“Being an active participant in my care makes me feel more hopeful about my path,” she says. “I was stable for years without any more ups or downs than someone who doesn’t have bipolar disorder. I know that it’s possible to get back there; it just might take some time. In the meantime, I have hope.”

*   *   *   *   *

Coping with relapse

It’s possible to minimize the impact of relapse by implementing a few strategies.

Take your meds: Medication adherence can help prevent recurrent depressive and manic or hypomanic episodes. If relapse occurs, “your dose might need to be adjusted or a new medication might need to be added,” says Swann. Relapse isn’t an open invitation to stop taking meds.

Avoid triggers: Adequate sleep, physical activity and social contact are all important for preventing relapse, according to Young. “It’s important to develop strategies to protect these rhythms,” he says. “Maintaining them can help protect against relapse or minimize its severity.”

Know your risks: Just like bipolar disorder has a genetic component, the course of the illness runs in families, too. If others in the family have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, take note of their relapse triggers and look for patterns with your own experiences, advises Swann.

Take immediate action: At the first signs of possible relapse, talk to a healthcare professional. “When symptoms of the illness start to come back and are very mild, it’s relatively easy to treat,” Calabrese says. “It’s harder when it drags on for weeks or months and takes on a life of its own.”

4 Hour Chef Review: How to Cook Like A Pro & Learn Anything

I recently had the opportunity to interview New York Times Best Selling Author Tim Ferriss about the release of his new book: The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. Ferriss and I talked about why he chose cooking to teach his methods for learning anything faster, and how he went from life-long non-cook to easy gourmet cooking starting with a whirlwind 48 hour cooking school with a renowned chef. (stay tuned for the video interview later today!)

Ferriss has two previous books, The 4-Hour Workweek (which details how to maximize efficiency in work/business) and The 4-Hour Body (which is a blueprint for everything from weight loss to muscle gain and everything in between). I first became interested in Ferriss’ work when I read the 4-Hour Workweek and applied the principles he talks about to my blogging to help maximize my efficiency so I wouldn’t be cutting in to family time. The 4-Hour Body was fascinating to me both from a nutritional and fitness perspective, but also from a marketing perspective after seeing how he engineered his launch and debuted at #1.

I didn’t expect anything less from The 4-Hour Chef, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. My digital review copy was almost 700 pages long and was a lot more than a simple cookbook. Ferriss’ goal was to provide readers a complete blueprint on how to master cooking (and any other goal) quickly and effectively. He is a proponent of Pareto’s Law and finding the 20% in any situation that allows for 80% of the results. From learning languages, to losing weight, to learning to swim- Ferriss teaches how to cut the learning curve.

What is The 4-Hour Chef?

It is certainly an unconventional cookbook and a whole lot more. It is the first cookbook I’ve read that isn’t just recipe based but that offers a blueprint (and specific help) for learning languages, the science of cooking, survival cooking and living, rapid memorization and so much more.

The 4-Hour Chef appealed to me personally because I like Ferriss’ unconventional approach and I am hopeful that it will inspire a love of cooking (real, healthy foods) in people who otherwise might not be interested in it. I also like Ferriss’ approach to learning, or “meta-learning” as he refers to it. The basic idea is figuring out the most rapid and effective way to learn a new skill to maximize your use of time. I learned some of this by trial and error when learning speed reading and rapid memorization in school, but I like how Ferriss applies it to everything from fitness to cooking to languages and everything in between.

The 4-Hour Chef is designed to take complete non-cooks and warp them in to functional chefs who actually enjoy cooking (Ferriss admits that he could only cook eggs in the microwave *cringe* before starting his goal of mastering the art of cooking).

The front cover of the book includes a fitting quote… that “If you crossed Jason Bourne with Julia Child, you’d end up with Tim Ferriss.” Ferriss definitely thinks outside of the box… While most of us might make a resolution to hit the gym for an hour a day if we wanted to lose weight, Tim instead figures out the way to do it with the least amount of time and effort (5 minutes twice a week!).

Certainly, The 4-Hour Chef is not designed solely as a cookbook, but as an effective way to introduce (and challenge readers to) the principles of meta-learning and maximizing their efforts. After reading The 4-Hour Chef, one would have the basic knowledge needed to learn a language more quickly, ferment sauerkraut, shoot a 3-pointer in basketball, cook an eel, survive without power for several days, and more. Personally, I’m working on learning Italian to test out his ideas on language learning… I’ll keep you posted.

The other reason I like all of Tim’s books is that they focus on maximizing efficiency the necessary aspects of life (work, cooking, even fitness) so that one has more time for the really important things like time with family. As a busy mom with an increasingly busy blog, some of these tips are invaluable. I used a lot of the ideas from The 4-Hour Workweek in starting to write Wellness Mama so that it wouldn’t cut in to family time or other obligations and it has been tremendously helpful… The 4-Hour Chef offers a blueprint for being able to accomplish the same thing with cooking and other household jobs.

I definitely delve into the specifics of the ideas in The 4-Hour Chef in the video interview, but if you (like me) don’t love sitting through a video.. here are some quick tips from the book:

Quick Application Tips from 4HC

I’d recommend getting a copy of The 4-Hour Chef to see the details, but some of the helpful tips I found included:

For Weight Loss: Consume 30 grams of (healthy) protein within 30 minutes of waking up for weight loss. This sounds simple but it actually affects hormone function and can make a big difference (plus, it gives a great boost of energy). I personally do this everyday and either eat grass fed meat, a can of wild caught salmon or tuna, eggs, or bulletproof protein powder (from this website) in a smoothie.
Fitness: Do 5 minutes of kettlebell swings 2-3 times a week. This and T-Tapp are the only workouts I do anymore and I can even continue them while pregnant.
Languages: Learn the most common 100 words first and then work up to the most used 1200 words. He offers some great resources, and I’ve found that some of his tips are really useful in teaching kids to read in English as well! (He gives the example that in English, the most used 25 words account for 33% of all printed materials… a good start!)
Cooking: Master the basic principles of the three most used methods of cooking: braising, sautéing and cooking, and you can functionally cook practically any dish. For anyone who likes recipes as a starting point but hates long explanations for each step- his recipes are simple and can even be distilled to one sentence. He really focuses on recipes that are easy to understand and difficult to mess up.
Random: Use these towels. Seriously. We got three of these for our wedding and I loved them but could never find them in any store to get more of them. When I saw them in the 4HC, I realized why… they are called Huck Towels or Surgical Towels and they work much better than regular kitchen towels! (never thought to check the hospital!)
Recommended Resources

Tim recommends a lot of resources in his interview, and a lot more in the book, but here are some specific ones that you might find useful:

Stickk.com and Dietbet.com for help in sticking to goals like weight loss or learning a new skill
Emailga.me for getting through emails quickly, as well as Boomerang and Nudgemail for email management
The Michel Thomas method for language learning along with DuoLingo.com for web translation
Total Immersion for swimming
Richard Feynman Video: “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out“
Tim’s Real Goal

One of Tim’s goals for The 4-Hour Chef, and one I completely share, is to create a lasting change in the way food is grown, prepared, and consumed in our world today. It is no secret that we (as a country and world) consume massive amounts of man-made junk food that are composed of processed ingredients from mon-crop farms that strip the soil and deplete the eco-system. It is also no secret that overall health is suffering as a result.

Tim’s goal is to create what he calls a “super-trend” of 20 million people to change the way food is grown and eaten in our world. Tim points out that 50% of independent farmers are set to retire in the next 10 years and that much of this farm land will be up for grabs. We, as consumers, are essentially voting with each item we purchase at the store and each meal we prepare (or don’t) what the future of our food system will be.

I absolutely share Tim’s encouragement to learn to prepare meals from whole, local foods as a way of not only supporting health, but supporting the future of our nation as well. Grow your own food… check out a farmers market… eat organic when you can.

Have you ever used the ideas of meta-learning to help learn or do something more quickly or efficiently? Tell me below!

Why Saturated Fat Is Not the Enemy (& Why We Need It)

Conventional wisdom (at least for the last few decades) says that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for you and contribute to heart disease…. but what does the evidence say?

How it Began…

The fear of saturated fat began in the 1950s when Ancel Keys published a paper supposedly linking saturated fat/cholesterol with rising rates of heart disease. The problem, as this article explains, was his cherry-picking of available data:

“Keys based his theory on a study of six countries, in which higher saturated fat intake equated to higher rates of heart disease. However, he conveniently ignored data from 16 other countries that did not fit his theory. Had he chosen a different set of countries, the data would have shown that increasing the percent of calories from fat reduces the number of deaths from coronary heart disease.

And, as illustrated in the featured article, when you include all 22 countries for which data was available at the time of his study, you find that those who consume the highest percentage of saturated fat have the lowest risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, many have now realized that it’s the trans fat found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that is the true villain, causing far more significant health problems than saturated fat ever could!”

Big Fat Lies…

Here is a short video that sums it up in two minutes:

Despite evidence to the contrary, the saturated fat/heart disease theory was largely accepted and promoted in the medical and nutritional communities and is widely accepted today.

What if Saturated Fat is Healthy?

Despite the widely accepted idea that saturated fat causes heart disease, there is a lack of evidence proving this, and quite a bit of evidence proving the opposite. For instance (from Chris Kresser):

“If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. (8) A Japanese prospective study that followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, and an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke (i.e. those who ate more saturated fat had a lower risk of stroke). (9)”

Cultures Around the World That Eat Fat

There is also current data from populations in several areas around the world that confirms this point:

The Maasai Tribe in Kenya eats a diet of meat, milk and animal blood (66% saturated fat) and has virtually no heart disease.
The Eskimo tribes in the arctic subsist on whale meat and blubber (a diet of 75% plus saturated fat) and have very low or no rate of heart disease.
The Tokealu of New Zealand consume a diet of 60% saturated fat from coconuts and fish and again have virtually no heart disease.
Lest anyone think that these tribes are simple pre-disposed to heart health, studies show that when people from these tribes move to other countries and consume a westernized diet, they get heart disease in the same rates as people in these countries.

Studies About Saturated Fat

As this article points out:

“A meta-analysis published last year, which pooled data from 21 studies and included nearly 348,000 adults, found no difference in the risks of heart disease and stroke between people with the lowest and highest intakes of saturated fat.
In a 1992 editorial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. William Castelli, a former director of the Framingham Heart study, stated:“In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol. The opposite of what… Keys et al would predict…We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.”
Another 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a reduction in saturated fat intake must be evaluated in the context of replacement by other macronutrients, such as carbohydrates.When you replace saturated fat with a higher carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbohydrate, you exacerbate insulin resistance and obesity, increase triglycerides and small LDL particles, and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol. The authors state that dietary efforts to improve your cardiovascular disease risk should primarily emphasize thelimitation of refined carbohydrate intake, and weight reduction.”
Chris Kresser sums it up well…

Eating saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease.

There. That’s it. That’s really all you need to know. But if you’d like to read more about it, John Briffa and Chris Masterjohn have written articles about it here and here.”

Agree that fat isn’t the problem but think that cholesterol could be the culprit instead? Check out this article.

Reasons to Eat MORE Saturated Fat

There are many convincing reasons to consume for saturated fat, such as…

Make the Heart Happy

Turns out that eating saturated fat may actually be important for preventing heart disease… As Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, MD explain:

“Though you may not have heard of it on the front pages of your local newspaper, online news source, or local television or radio news program, saturated fat plays a couple of key roles in cardiovascular health. The addition of saturated fat to the diet reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a)—pronounced “lipoprotein little a” and abbreviated Lp(a)—that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease. Currently there are no medications to lower this substance and the only dietary means of lowering Lp(a) is eating saturated fat. Bet you didn’t hear that on the nightly news. Moreover, eating saturated (and other) fats also raises the level of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol. Lastly, research has shown that when women diet, those eating the greatest percentage of the total fat in their diets as saturated fat lose the most weight.”

To Lose Weight

Eating fat makes you fat? Not so much..

There are whole books dedicated to the subject (affiliate) but in short (from Mark Sisson):

“Fat doesn’t make you fat. While you can technically overeat enough fat calories to accumulate adipose tissue, thus getting fat, this is a difficult feat, for two primary reasons:

Fat is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Grass-fed pot roast, ribbed with yellow fat, connective tissue, and ample protein is far more filling than some crusty bread spread with butter. You’ll eat a decent slice of the former and be done, but you could easily polish off half a loaf of the latter with half a stick of butter and still be hungry. It’s difficult to overeat on a high-fat, low-carb diet.

Dietary fat in the presence of large amounts of dietary carbohydrates can make it difficult to access fat for energy, while dietary fat in the presence of low levels of dietary carbohydrates makes it easier to access fat for energy. Couple that with the fact that fat and carbs are easier to overeat together, and you have your explanation. In fact, studies have shown that low-carb, high-fat diets not only reduce weight, they also retain or even increase lean mass. That means it’s fat that’s being lost (rather than the nebulous “weight”), which is what we’re ultimately after.”

For Liver Health

According to the Drs. Eades:

“Adding saturated fat to the diet has been shown in medical research to encourage the liver cells to dump their fat content. Clearing fat from the liver is the critical first step to calling a halt to middle-body fat storage. Additionally, saturated fat has been shown to protect the liver from the toxic insults of alcohol and medications, including acetaminophen and other drugs commonly used for pain and arthritis, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, and even to reverse the damage once it has occurred. Since the liver is the lynchpin of a healthy metabolism, anything that is good for the liver is good for getting rid of fat in the middle. Polyunsaturated vegetable fats do not offer this protection.”

Improved Healthy Brain

The brain is made largely of fat and the majority of the fat in the brain is saturated. The Myelin Sheath that surrounds the nerves in the brain and ensures their proper function is also largely made of saturated fat and cholesterol. As such, consuming saturated fats is extremely important, especially during pregnancy and nursing as these are times of rapid brain development for babies.

For Healthier Skin

From a previous article:

“At the same time that Omega-6 oil consumption has risen, consumption of saturated fats and Omega-3 fats has declined. We’ve seen how well that’s worked out for us, but it turns out that it could have a pretty big impact on skin health too.

The body needs healthy fats, including saturated fats, monounsaturated fats,  and Omega-3 fats, to regenerate skin tissue, and these fats are the preferred building blocks in the body. If the body doesn’t get these fats (and many people don’t these days), it will use whatever it has available, including Omega-6 fats, which are not the preferred fat for building skin and collagen and can cause mutation (cancer).”

Immune Health

Saturated fats are also important for keeping the immune system functioning properly. From this post:

“Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Human breast milk is quite rich in myristic and lauric acid, which have potent germ-killing ability. But the importance of the fats lives on beyond infancy; we need dietary replenishment of them throughout adulthood, middle age, and into seniority to keep the immune system vigilant against the development of cancerous cells as well as infectious invaders.”

Additional Reading

7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat – Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades at the blog of Tim Ferriss.

What if Bad Fat is Actually Good For You? – at Men’s Health

Saturated Fat- Will I Get Fat and Die?

Four Reasons Saturated Fat is Healthy

The Seven Most Common Reactions to Your High Fat Diet

Is Saturated Fat Healthy? at MarksDailyApple.com

What if It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie? (Gary Taubes interview by Dr. Mercola):

Sources:

Keys, A. et al; 1986; The Diet and 15-year death rate in the seven countries study, inAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 124, No.6, pp.903-915 Hu, F.B et al; 1999;

Dietary saturated fats and their food sources in relation to the risk of coronary heart disease in women, in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, pp. 1001-8 Fallon, S. and Enig, M.G; 2001; Nourishing Traditions, New Trends Publishing, Washington, DC

Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease: the discrepancy between the scientific literature and dietary advice.

Where do you fall on the Saturated Fat debate? Share below!

How I Take Fulvic & Humic Minerals

I’ve written about the many benefits of humic minerals and fulvic acids and how they can dramatically impact health and I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to practically incorporate these substances.

To recap, these substances can improve digestion, cell function, energy levels and even brain function. When combined with soil based probiotics, there is some compelling research that they can help improve gut health and autoimmune disease.

Fulvic/Humic Mineral Sources

There are a couple good sources that I’ve found and have personally tried: Prescript Assist Probioticsand Black Mineral Powder (use the code “wellnessmama” for 50% off). You may have noticed that I used the Black mineral powder in my homemade mascara because it provided the best results I’ve found, but it is also incredible as a health supplement!

Both of these options have a wide variety of soil based probiotics alone with fulvic and humic minerals. I’ve noticed great results from both, and I’d caution to start slowly with either one, as I noticed a mild detox effect when I introduced each one into my diet.

Since they help the assimilation of food, I’ve experimented with taking them before meals and in the morning, but also noticed a benefit from taking them at night and letting them “rest” in my digestive system while I slept. Optimal timing will probably vary by person so experiment and see what you respond best to.

Water Quality

There is some emerging evidence that water quality is drastically important when taking these types of minerals and probiotics since they don’t react well with chlorine and *might* create a harmful substance when combined with chlorinated water.

The evidence is still shaky at best, but I use filtered water with the chlorine removed just in case. We currently use a Berkey filter to remove chlorine from drinking water, but are in the process of switching to a whole-house filter (that we’ve saved for years to get) since it will remove all chlorine in water entering into our home.

What I Take

Currently, I am in the final stages of working to resolve leaky gut and get my autoimmune disease into remission. Under the care of my doctor, I hope to soon wean off my thyroid medication, and blood tests are showing that this may soon be possible.

To make sure I’m supporting my body during this time, I’m using both forms of fulvic/humic minerals and soil based probiotics. If I had to choose one, the Black mineral powder is less expensive per month (at the doses I’m taking) and easier to give to my children. Right now, my husband and I take:

1 scoop of black mineral powder in the morning before breakfast for the energy and nutrient assimilation (remember to use the code “wellnessmama” for 50% off if you order it)
2 Prescript Assist probiotics at night before bed to assist in beneficial gut bacteria formation while I sleep
I started slowly and worked up to these doses. I started with half a scoop of the powder and half a capsule of the probiotics. Both are very potent and even with those I noticed some brain fog and headache the first couple of days (a common symptom of a detox effect).

My children take these minerals and probiotics too. I started them with 1/4 scoop of mineral powder and 1/4 capsule and worked them up to 1/2 scoop of mineral powder a day and 1 probiotic capsule.

Have you ever taken fulvic or humic minerals? How did you respond to them?

How to Remineralize Teeth Naturally & Reverse Tooth Decay

Do you and your kids brush and floss regularly and limit sugar and still get cavities?

Have any of your kids needed to have braces?

Has your child under 6 had signs of tooth decay?

Ever wish you could reverse those things?

If you are like me, you were raised with the notion (likely told by your dentist) that sugar and bad genes cause tooth decay and that if you were getting tooth decay as a child, you needed to cut back on sugar. You likely also believe that genetics determine tooth spacing and that your genetics might have doomed you to braces…

I believed all that stuff too… but as it turns out, there is more to the story!

What Really Causes Tooth Decay?

There is a lot of evidence showing that diet had a tremendous impact on oral health (even more so than brushing in some cases) and that there had even been cases of cavities reversing.

As I thought about this, it made sense…

Why would bones and other tissue be able to heal and regenerate, but not teeth?

How did other populations throughout the world have great oral health, no cavities and no need for braces when they didn’t even have access to modern dentistry?

As Dr. Weston A. Price (a dentist) found and detailed in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, there were cultures throughout the world who had perfect teeth despite no access to dentists or modern toothpaste, while similar cultures with different diets had very high rates of tooth decay.

He found examples of cultures with similar genetic backgrounds with some living in primitive type societies and eating primitive type diets and others who ate a modernized diet. He found that many primitive cultures were able to completely avoid tooth decay and the many oral health problems we struggle with today.

The image on the left shows a stark example of this: the woman in the top right ate a primitive, whole-food, high-fat diet while the other women ate more modernized diet that contained grains and agricultural foods.

Price hypothesized that several dietary factors contributed to this difference in oral health.

Sir (Dr.) Edward Mellanby (he discovered Vitamin D) and his lovely wife Dr. May Mellanby were also influential in discovering the roles of nutrients in oral health. These two contributed much research in the areas of bone and tooth health and mineral absorption.

In fact, it was Edward who discovered that Vitamin D deficiency caused rickets. They also discovered that tooth structure is determined during a child’s growth, and that poorly formed teeth are more likely to decay (pretty logical).

The Doctors’ Conclusion: Diet Affects Oral Health

These doctors all reached the same conclusion after years of research, mainly that tooth structure and health is largely determined by diet, especially three main factors:

The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
How bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them. They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet and how much sugar is consumed.
What is Phytic Acid?

Phytic acid is a molecule of phosphorus tightly bound with other molecules to form a type of phosphorus that is not easily absorbed by humans. From the Weston A. Price Foundation:

Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate.

Phytic acid is found in grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and in much smaller amounts in some fruits and vegetables. The body naturally converts phytic acid into phytates, which are un-absorbable and take calcium from the body. Those who consume high amounts of phytic acid will lose calcium and absorb other minerals at lower rates.

Modern growing practices, including the use of high phosphorus fertilizer, mean a higher phytic acid content in many foods. Seeds, nuts, bran, oatmeal, and soybeans are especially high in phytic acid, and these foods are present in abundance in modern diet.

Check out this article about phytic acid for a comprehensive list of phytic acid content in foods.

Phytic Acid’s Effect on Bone and Tooth Health

People who consume large amounts of phytic acid (most Americans) in the form of grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes have higher rates of tooth decay, mineral deficiencies and osteoporosis.

Over the long term, when the diet lacks minerals or contains high levels of phytates or both, the metabolism goes down, and the body goes into mineral-starvation mode. The body then sets itself up to use as little of these minerals as possible. Adults may get by for decades on a high-phytate diet, but growing children run into severe problems. In a phytate-rich diet, their bodies will suffer from the lack of calcium and phosphorus with poor bone growth, short stature, rickets, narrow jaws and tooth decay; and for the lack of zinc and iron with anemia and mental retardation.

Just as lack of Vitamin D and poor calcium absorption can cause malformation of the bones of the legs (as in the case of Rickets), it can cause the jawbone to form poorly, resulting in spacing problems for the teeth and braces for the child.

Sadly, the most commonly eaten diet in America these days is high in grains, sugars, and vegetable oils, and low in animal fats and fat soluble vitamins- the exact opposite of what the Drs. Mellanby found to be helpful for optimal bone health and the prevention of tooth decay.

The good news is that teeth (and bones) are able to heal themselves in a process called remineralization. Basically, specialized cells in the center of the tooth are able to regenerate dentin, the layer of tooth just under the enamel, and the enamel can then properly remineralize from the outside. This same process happens in bones when phytic acid is removed from the diet and minerals/fat soluble vitamins are added.

To prove this theory, the Drs. Mellanby did a study on children with existing cavities and reported their findings in the British Medical Journal. The children were put into three groups:

Group One: Regular diet plus oatmeal (which is high in phytic acid)
Group Two: Regular diet plus vitamin D
Group Three: Diet low in phytic acid plus vitamin D.
This is what they found:

The group consuming phytic acid with no supplemental vitamin D continued to get cavities with little to no healing.

The group that just supplemented Vitamin D showed some healing, but also got some new cavities.

The group consuming no phytic acid and supplementing Vitamin D showed very few new cavities and actually had many existing cavities heal!

This article at Whole Health Source explains more.

When I brought this information up in health circles, it would usually spark a lot of debate and some strong comments from dentists or dental health professionals. Most would admit, after a time, that the enamel of teeth could regenerate but that once a cavity was through the dentin (the layer under the enamel), it was impossible for it to heal without dental intervention.

In my own life and in further reading, I’ve found that this isn’t the case either. As this articleelaborates:

Fortunately, a decaying or broken tooth has the ability to heal itself. Pulp contains cells called odontoblasts, which form new dentin if the diet is good. Here’s what Dr. Edward Mellanby had to say about his wife’s research on the subject. This is taken from Nutrition and Disease:

Since the days of John Hunter it has been known that when the enamel and dentine are injured by attrition or caries, teeth do not remain passive but respond to the injury by producing a reaction of the odontoblasts in the dental pulp in an area generally corresponding to the damaged tissue and resulting in a laying down of what is known as secondary dentine. In 1922 M. Mellanby proceeded to investigate this phenomenon under varying nutritional conditions and found that she could control the secondary dentine laid down in the teeth of animals as a reaction to attrition both in quality and quantity, independently of the original structure of the tooth. Thus, when a diet of high calcifying qualities, ie., one rich in vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus was given to the dogs during the period of attrition, the new secondary dentine laid down was abundant and well formed whether the original structure of the teeth was good or bad. On the other hand, a diet rich in cereals and poor in vitamin D resulted in the production of secondary dentine either small in amount or poorly calcified, and this happened even if the primary dentine was well formed.

To be fair, most dentists probably don’t see many patients who are eating a specific diet to improve their oral health, and most of the studies and research they read is probably done on people eating a somewhat average diet (high in phytic acid and low in Vitamin D), so it is very logical that they wouldn’t think that teeth could heal. It certainly isn’t common, but with very specific supplements and a very careful nutritional program, it is certainly possible!

Halt and Reverse Tooth Decay?

To recap, the things that Drs. Mellanby and Dr. Price found to prevent and reverse tooth and bone problems are:

The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
How bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them. They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet.
What does this mean practically in the diet? It is not possible or necessary to eliminate Phytic acid from the diet. What should be considered is taking care to minimize the foods that contain the highest amounts.

Some preparations like soaking and fermenting can reduce the phytic acid content and should be practiced if the foods are going to be consumed, but in many cases, it is better to avoid these foods completely.

Nuts, for instance, have a high phytic acid content which can be greatly reduced by soaking the nuts in salt or lemon water overnight and then rinsing and dehydrating in the oven (the same can be done with beans). While this step is time consuming, it is feasible with things like nuts or beans, but much more intensive with wheat (which contains more phytic acid!)

Grains especially are better soaked, sprouted and fermented,  if consumed at all, but this process does not completely eliminate the other harmful properties of grains. Avoiding the most common food sources of phytic acid can also help:

You might notice that meats, eggs, vegetables, and healthy fats are not on this list of high phytic acid foods. As I’ve mentioned before, these foods contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals are are more nutrient dense anyway.

If foods high in phytic acid are going to be eaten, check out this article from the Weston A. Price Foundation on how to sprout, ferment, and soak them to make them less harmful.

There is also a great book called Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition by Rami Nagel that explains in great detail the connection between phytic acid and tooth/bone health and practical steps to reverse it.

How I Remineralized My Teeth

In early 2010, my regular dental check-up revealed that I had some soft spots and a lot of plaque on my teeth. I also had one “official” cavity, though it wasn’t bad, and while they suggested getting it filled soon, it wasn’t a huge rush. They did warn me that I had the beginning stages of gingivitis in several places and had a lot of plaque.(It took them about 30-40 minutes to scrape and clean my teeth, which I thought was normal) They took x-rays, so I have picture evidence of my teeth at this time.

I had every intention of getting the cavity filled and continuing with regular dentist appointments, but then life happened and I didn’t get around to scheduling an appointment for months. By the time I finally had time to schedule an appointment, I had seen some interesting info in books about the ability of teeth to heal, so I decided to hold off.

I did more research, read the book Cure Tooth Decay and read accounts of other people reversing dental damage, so I decided to give it a try. I took advice from all the research I had done and figured out a specific diet and supplement regimen that I was going to use to try to heal my teeth.

I followed the regimen for a few months, and noticed that my teeth were whiter and much less sensitive to cold. This was big news to me as I used to have such sensitive teeth that drinking too cold of a drink could literally almost bring me to tears. I also found out about this time that I was expecting a baby (p.s. this diet promotes fertility too!) and decided to continue on the regimen for the pregnancy, as all of the things I was doing were also supportive of healthy pregnancy.

It was fall of 2011 before I finally got around to making it back to the dentist (I know, I know… every six months…) and I didn’t mention a thing about the cavities and soft spots that needed to be fixed… and neither did the dentist!

It also only took them about 5 minutes to clean and scrape my teeth. I thought she was still checking them and she was done! The hygienist told me that my teeth and gums looked great, and asked if I had started using fluoride or fluoride toothpaste (my chart made it very clear that I was anti-fluoride). I told her no but that I had been trying to make sure I was taking better care of my teeth lately (very true!).

When the dentist checked my teeth, he didn’t mention any problem areas either and remarked that my gums looked great! On a random note, I heard him telling another patient that cutting back on the sugar and starches was a good idea since “without starches, cavities can not form, since they feed on sugar and starches.” Newfound respect for my dentist!

So what did I do?

Diet to Help Heal Cavities and Improve Oral Health

I drastically cut foods that contained phytic acid. I already wasn’t eating grains or beans, but I also cut or limited nuts.
Limited foods containing even natural sugars or starches– I limited fruit and even starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and focused on mineral rich vegetables, bone broths, meats, and healthy fats.
Ate a LOT of healthy fats. I added extra of coconut oil to my diet each day, and used only pastured, cultured butter.
I made an effort to consume a lot of homemade bone broth for its added minerals. (If you’re short on time, I recommend buying your broth online from Kettle & Fire.
To recap: No grains, beans or nuts and limited fruits and starches. Lots of vegetables, protein, healthy fats and bone broth.

Supplements to Help Heal Cavities and Improve Oral Health

To help the body remineralize cavities, it is sometimes necessary to increase mineral levels with supplements. While diet alone might be enough, many foods are depleted of nutrients from being grown in nutrient depleted soil, so supplements help fill the gaps. These are the supplements I typically recommend for improved oral health and dental healing:

Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Blend– Green Pastures makes this as a Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil blend. I prefer the combination in capsules or there is a liquid version (tastes terrible). This is one of the main supplements recommended by Dr. Price from his research. FCLO has become controversial recently, but it is the supplement I used to reverse my tooth problems and the one I would still use if I needed to do this again.
Vitamin D– This was the other main supplement that Dr. Price and the Drs. Mellanby found was extremely supportive of dental healing. In the study they did, cavities healed even when diet wasn’t changed if Vitamin D was optimized and the best healing occurred when diet was optimized and Vitamin D was added.
Coconut Oil– I added a couple tablespoons of coconut oil to a smoothie or melted in tea each day. We get ours online here, but you can find it many places…. just look for organic, virgin and unrefined coconut oil. I also found that I could add healthy fats like coconut oil and butter to coffee or tea and used healthy fats like tallow, ghee and butter in cooking.
Other supplements– I also took Magnesium, Gelatin and Vitamin C daily, though these aren’t as vital to tooth healing.
Other Factors

I brushed with homemade remineralizing toothpaste daily and while I was actively trying to heal teeth, I swished with both calcium and magnesium powders dissolved in water daily to help provide minerals and to keep the mouth alkaline.
I also added Ora Wellness Brushing Blend to my regimen and use their (gentler) toothbrush daily.
I brushed with activated charcoal every couple of days to help pull toxins from the mouth (more on that soon!)
I also practiced oil pulling daily to help support tooth and gum health.
Right now, my husband is trying the whole regimen to reverse a cavity he has, so I’ll keep you updated on his progress (hoping I might be able to get the x-rays from the dentist for proof when the cavity is gone… UPDATE: we are both cavity free and I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers with cavity free teeth as well. Here is one of my favorites:

Hey Katie-

I just want to say thank you and share a healing success story thanks to your encouragement!

I am 30 and last year the dentist told me I had my first cavity – it was not going to heal, he said it was too far advanced and not possible. I told him I didn’t want to deal with it because I was diagnosed with stage 4 carcinoid cancer and had recently had surgery to cut out a tumor. The thought of cutting something else out of my body when I was working so hard to heal my body didn’t make sense to me. So I found your site, read your tips, made homemade remineralizing toothpaste, ate a lot of bone broth and good butter, cut down on phytic acid, etc.

I went back to the dentist 6 months later and he was shocked that the cavity was gone. He wanted me to tell him everything I had done. I felt so good!

-Catherine D. from Virginia

What do you think? Would you try remineralizing your own teeth? Do you already do these things?

Are Sprouted, Soaked, & Fermented Grains Healthy?

Grains are a controversial food in modern times, and perhaps with good reason. They aren’t the food they were thousands of years ago, or hundreds of years ago, or even 50 years ago.

Are All Grains Bad?

Maybe you’ve why grains have become so controversial when people from other countries (usually Asia and Italy are mentioned here) are able to eat them regularly while staying thin and living long lives. There are actually several factors that seem to contribute here, including genetics, other dietary differences, and a vast difference in the actual grains themselves.

Also- while grain consumption is an inherently irrelevant statistic when it comes to both weight and longevity,  if you want a statistically valid comparison, squatting while using the restroom actually seems to be one of the best predictors…

Even in the health community, there is a split between WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) followers and the Paleo/Primal/Low Carb group on the health and necessity of grains and if they should be eaten at all. Within these groups, there is disagreement among which grains are healthy and how they should be prepared.

While there is certainly a case to be made for avoiding modern grains for a variety of reasons, there are also traditional preparation methods that cultures have used for thousands of years to help reduce the not-so-great properties of grans and make them more bioavailable. Among these traditional methods are soaking, sprouting or fermenting (or a combination of all three).

What are Soaked, Sprouted or Fermented Grains?

All grains have various properties that protect them in the plant world and allow them to survive to produce seed. In animals, these protective features are often claws, teeth, sharp spines, venomous fangs, etc, or the ability to run away and escape enemies, but plants protective features tend to be a lot more subtle.

Since plants aren’t able to fight or evade, their protective mechanisms are less noticeable. Plants like poison ivy or poison oak have obvious protective mechanisms like the itch-inducing oils on their leaves.

The protective mechanisms of those amber waves of grain are harder to identify externally. These crops are often eaten by animals, so their protection lies in the ability of their seeds (the “grain” itself) to pass through the animal and emerge on the other side as a pre-fertilized seed, ready to grow.

Plants accomplish this through the presence of gluten, other lectins, enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid which allow the grains to pass through the digestive system without harm to the plant. (note: Phytic acid is especially damaging to bone and tooth health and has been linked to tooth decay) These indigestible compounds are great for ensuring the plants continued fertility, but they can be harmful to humans, especially in large amounts.

These natural protective compounds in plants can be harmful to humans, especially in large amounts, and especially for those with an underlying genetic or health issue. Thankfully, there are methods that help break down these protective compounds and make the nutrients in grains more available during digestion.

Soaking, Sprouting and Fermenting

Traditional cultures where grains were consumed regularly or in large amounts found ways to reduce the harmful components through methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting.

These methods are designed to do what our body can’t and break down the anti-nutrients (gluten, lectin, phytic acid, etc) in grains so that they are more digestible to humans. Evidence shows that these methods do indeed make the nutrients in grains much more bioavailable and reduce the anti-nutrient properties.

These methods rely on using an acidic medium in liquid to soak the grains, a constructive environment to soak them and let them sprout, or a process like sourdough fermentation to alter the chemical make-up of the grain.

Sadly, most grains consumed these days are not prepared in any of traditional ways, and many cultures have largely given up these methods in the name of modern convenience. Yet, science is starting to understand the wisdom of these older methods and to realize that newer, more convenient forms of processing may not only be making grains harder to digest, but may be contributing to micronutrient deficiencies.

Are Soaked, Sprouted and Fermented Grains Healthy?

From a nutrient perspective, grains prepared in these ways have much higher nutrient levels and lower anti-nutrient levels than grains that are just ground into flour and baked, but should they be eaten?

The question remains, do these methods reduce the harmful properties enough to make these modern grains safe to consume. Unfortunately, with hybridized, highly sprayed and highly processed modern grains, there isn’t an easy answer and even these traditional methods may not be enough to reduce all of the harmful properties in these foods.

Mark Sisson sums up the effects of soaking and sprouting in his article about traditionally prepared grains:

Effect on phytate: If the grain contains phytase, some of the mineral-binding phytic acid will be deactivated, but not much. And if the grain has been heat-treated, which destroys phytase, or it contains very little phytase to begin with, the phytic acid will remain completely intact. Overall, neither soaking nor sprouting deactivates a significant amount of phytate.

Effect on enzyme inhibitors: Well, since the seed has been placed in a wet medium and allowed to sprout, the enzyme inhibitors are obviously mostly deactivated. Digestion is much improved (cooking will improve it further).

Effect on lectins: The evidence is mixed, and it seems to depend on the grain. Sprouted wheat, for example, is extremely high in WGA, the infamous wheat lectin. As the wheat grain germinates, the WGA is retained in the sprout and is dispersed throughout the finished plant. In other grains, sprouting seems more beneficial, but there’s always some residual lectins that may need further processing to deactivate.

Effect on gluten: Sprouting reduces gluten to some extent, but not by very much. Don’t count on it. A little bit goes a long way.

Adding fermentation to the mix reduces the harmful properties even more, but does not completely render them harmless.

The presence of these anti-nutrients in all grains also explains why people who avoid wheat for health reasons but still consume “gluten-free” foods may still have health problems. Wheat is definitely at the more dangerous end of the grain spectrum for those with certain health issues, but other modern grains aren’t harmless by a long shot, and many of them are higher in simple starches than wheat.

So, Should We Eat Them?

Certainly, these methods of preparation do improve the nutrient profile of grains, but this still doesn’t mean that sprouted, soaked, or fermented grains are as healthy as they once were or that they should be consumed in large amounts. Many modern grains have been hybridized to be higher yield, but less nutritious. Additionally, many grains are highly sprayed right before harvest, and these chemicals remain in the processed grain or flour and traditional methods of preparation will not remove them.

Certainly, if you consume grains, it would be best to use these traditional methods (preferably all three) and to mill flour yourself using ancient grains that have been grown organically and not hybridized to reduce nutrition.

It is also important to note that there are no nutrients in grains, even traditionally prepared ones, that are not found in other foods, and many other foods are higher sources of nutrients than even traditionally prepared grains. As statistics show that we are not consuming enough vegetables, I’d personally focus on adding more vegetables to our diets for nutrients, rather than spending the extra time and money to make quality traditionally prepared grains.

It should be noted that all plant substances have properties that can make them harmful to humans in some way, but that it is much easier to reduce these harmful properties in other plants (cooking cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli and cauliflower, peeling and cooking sweet potatoes, etc).

Long story short- grains are far from a super food, especially modern grains that have been highly processed. Traditionally prepared grains are definitely a step in the right direction but they don’t compare to vegetables when it comes to nutrients. For those with a gut or autoimmune issue, even traditionally prepared grains can be problematic.

Anyone who doesn’t have any food related problems and that have excellent gut health may do great with soaked, sprouted or fermented grains, but I’d still recommend only adding these in after optimizing other aspects of the diet, increasing vegetable intake and making sure to get enough high quality proteins and fats.

There is also a definite difference between grains high in anti-nutrients like wheat, barley, etc and ones like white rice (not brown rice) which are naturally free of the more potent anti-nutrients like gluten) and which seem to be somewhat less harmful.

The other point worth mentioning is that even sprouted, soaked and fermented grains cause a spike in insulin and can inhibit weight loss and lead to other health problems if eaten in large amounts.

Summary

Yes, these methods do reduce the harmful properties but do not eliminate them. As grains still aren’t a stellar source of nutrition, even with all these elaborate preparation methods, and they can be/are harmful to many people.
For the little bit of nutrition they might provide, the benefit is still overshadowed by the harmful properties that still exist in small amounts (gluten, lectin, phytic acid, etc) and they take an extreme amount of preparation time and energy for this small amount of nutrition.
If you have a strong, healthy gut, eat an otherwise nutrient rich diet and go to these great lengths to properly prepare grains, you might be able to tolerate them occasionally, but why go through all the trouble when we live in a time where there is access to healthier foods (vegetables, meat, good fats, etc.).
In an age where we are bombarded by toxins in our air, water and food supply, removing grains (even traditionally prepared ones) is an easy step we can take to improve our health and to make room for other, more nutritious foods in our diets.
If a substance (in this case, grains) might be harmful for you to consume, and there are no negative effects of removing it, logically, it would be wise to avoid it.
What do you think? Do you consume sprouted, soaked, or fermented grains? Totally disagree with me? Share below!