Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Jul 18, 2017

Catnip for Human Medicine

Catmint Herbal Medicine
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My interest in medicinal herbs began when I was in my 20s. That was also when I had my first unfortunate incident with catnip (also called "catmint"). I'd bought a tiny nursery seedling, thinking it would be fun to grow catnip and give my cat a little now and then...but my cat ate the entire seedling before I ever got it planted...and then proceeded to suffer from hallucinations which lead to years of flashbacks. So let's just say I'm not a fan of giving catnip to cats. (It is, most vets will admit if you press them, rather like giving heroine to a human.)

So when we moved to our new homestead and I found a large patch of catnip, I was ready to pull it out. Yet with our homestead, came the previous owners' cat, Loki. He's a great little guy - a wonderful mouser, and sweet to boot. He's not young, however...and he's very fond of catnip. The family joke is that Loki is the old hippie on our homestead; in the summer, when the catnip is growing, we always know where to find him: laying in the middle of the catnip. All. Day. Long.

Despite some misgivings, I finally decided the cat was set in his ways, happy, showing no ill effects from the catnip (other than growing a little thin in the summer because he's too busy in the catnip to eat as usual), and I hated to upset his world. So the catnip remains, though I keep it under pretty tight control.

That decision made, I also came to the conclusion that I may as well use the catnip for the humans who live here, too. Because, yes! Catnip has a long tradition of medicinal use in humans.
Catnip blooms can be lovely and attract plenty of garden pollinators. (Courtesy of

Catnip as Human Medicine

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is part of the mint family (hence the other common name for the plant: catmint). In humans, the herb is a mild relaxant, mostly used as a soothing tea to de-stress and prepare for sleep. Catnip contains nepetalactone, which is known to repel mosquitoes better than DEET and may repel flies and cockroaches, too. Herbalists say catnip is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antispasmodic, anti-fungal, and a bactericide. It's traditionally used for treating colic, nausea, digestive distress, fevers, arthritis, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, hemorrhoids, to put menstrual cramps at bay, as a treatment for minor cuts and abrasions, and to help relieve the symptoms of the cold or flu.

How to Grow and Harvest Catnip

Like many perennial herbs, catnip is incredibly easy to grow. In fact, usually the only problem with growing it is keeping it from spreading everywhere. Therefore, I suggest either growing catnip in a container, or keeping it in a small bed surrounded by concrete.

Catnip wants full sun, and I find it doesn't mind being a bit dry (though that's contrary to most growing guides I've read, which claim catnip needs evenly moist soil). Like all herbs, catnip loves a good trim, so don't be afraid to harvest it regularly. To harvest, simply snip off a stem, just above a double set of leaves.

Catnip is in the mint family. (Courtesy of

How to Preserve Catnip

There are some uses for fresh catnip leaves, but catnip is primarily used dried. Pick leaves off stems and place them on the trays of a dehydrator. Dry at 95 degrees F. until crisp. Alternatively, hang stems of catnip upside down in a dark location until the leaves are completely dry.

Place dry, cool leaves in an air tight container stored in a dark, cool location.

Using Catnip for Humans

Tea: This is the most common way to consume catnip and is perfect as a relaxer, sleep aid, digestive aid, menstrual cramp reducer, and headache reliever. Strong teas may also relieve anxiety attacks. Simply fill a tea ball with dried catnip leaves, crushing them as you go; place the ball in a cup, cover with boiling water, then cover the cup with a saucer. When the tea stops steaming, you may remove the saucer. (Herbalists say covering steeping tea helps retain the herbs' medicinal qualities.) For a stronger tea, use fresh, coarsely chopped leaves. It's fine to add honey or lemon juice to flavor the tea.

Poultice: When catnip is actively growing, crush fresh leaves and place directly onto minor cuts and abrasions to help prevent infection and promote healing. Fresh leaves may also be chewed to help relieve a toothache, and a simple poultice of crushed catnip leaves and warm water or oil may be applied to arthritic parts of the body.

For colic: Brew catnip tea and have the child consume it. Most children do not like the flavor of catnip, so adding sweetener helps. (Do not use honey as a sweetener for children under the age of 12 months.) You may also add the tea to a bottle of milk or formula or other drink - just 2 or 3 tablespoons will do the trick.
Catnip is also called catmint. (Courtesy of

Baths: Adding catnip to warm bath water may help relieve sore muscles, achey bodies with the flu, and relax the body and mind. If desired, place a handful of fresh or dried catnip in a square piece of cotton, pull up the corners, tie off, and hang the resulting bag so the warm water runs through it as you fill the tub. Alternatively, make a strong catnip tea and add it to the bath water.

WARNINGS: According to WebMD, catnip should not be taken regularly or excessively. Do not consume catnip if you are pregnant. If you are nursing, talk to your doctor before taking catnip. Those with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) should not consume catnip, nor should women who have excessive menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia). Catnip should not be used in conjunction with medications that slow down the central nervous system, like sedatives. Talk to you doctor if you take lithium and you want to consume catnip. As with any plant, allergic reactions are possible, if unusual.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

* Title images courtesy of Megan Hansen and mwms1916.

Jun 19, 2017

Dealing with Ticks, Naturally

How to Naturally Deter Ticks
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Country living isn't new to me; I grew up in a rural area. But ticks? Yep, definitely a new-to-me experience. And this year, ticks are already much, much worse than they were last year - a trend throughout the nation, I read. And while the little buggers completely gross me out (just writing this post makes me feel like ticks are crawling all over me), I don't relish the thought of spraying my family with DEET day in and day out. So here are a few things that have helped us keep the ticks at bay naturally.

(Please bear in mind that I don't live in an area where Lyme disease is currently a factor. If I did, I might be more inclined to use DEET as the lesser of two evils.)

1. Yard Maintenance. Keeping the grass mowed goes a long way toward keeping ticks out of the yard. Yes, some ticks hang out on bushes and trees, but a many more seem to lurk in tall grass. Keeping that grass short obliterates a tick's favorite hang out. In addition, having gravel or bark borders surrounding common human hang outs (like the deck) may help keep ticks at bay.

2. Dress Right. When you're in tick-infested areas, wear boots with long pants, or tuck your pants into your socks. It may look dorky, but it keeps ticks from climbing up your legs. Long sleeves help, too.

3. Cloak Your Scent. Many types of ticks know what to jump on by that creature's smell, so anything you do to mask your smell will help deter ticks. We've been using tea tree oil - apparently successfully. (That is to say, we've never found a tick on us after applying it.) I just dab it onto our ankles (or the ankles of our boots), our wrists (at the pulse points, just like you'd do with perfume), and our necks. Since mosquitoes are also a problem for us, I also want to experiment with using Thieves' Vinegar. I've made a batch (you can read about that here), and it stinks a lot, but we haven't had a chance to use it yet.

4. Check Right Away. As soon as you're out of the tick-infested area, check for ticks. Remove all your clothes and check every nook and cranny. It's best to put those clothes directly into a sealed, plastic garbage bag, or directly into the washing machine (which should then be turned on), so any ticks on your clothes won't be loose in the house.

5. Remove Ticks CORRECTLY. If you find a tick, remove it carefully. So many of the tick-removing ticks neighbors and family told us about - or that we read about on the internet - are not recommended because they allow the tick a chance to regurgitate into your blood stream, increasing the likelihood it will pass on some disease to you. Methods to avoid include using a match or heat source, using manual rubbing, or using bag balm, petroleum jelly, or some other oil. The CDC recommends using tweezers, but I find this usually results in the tick's head being left behind - definitely not what we're after! Then I discovered the Tick Twister. When I first bought this device, I was highly skeptical. It seemed too simple and too much like tweezers. But trust me, this baby works! You just insert the tick between the tongs of the device, then turn, like a screw driver. Out comes the tick, head and all!

6. Dealing with the Dog. One area where we still struggle is with the dog, who is basically a 90 lb. tick magnets. Tea tree oil is toxic to dogs. (According to Pet MD, uou could could safely use .1% to 1% tea tree oil, but I doubt it would be strong enough to keep ticks at bay.) Our neighbors use garlic powder, sprinkled into their dog's food. When they told me this, I was surprised; I thought garlic was toxic to dogs. But further research online and in books indicates that it's a matter of proper dosage. The book All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets claims dogs can have 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder per pound of food, 3-4 times a week. (If your dog is anemic or has other health issues, talk to your vet before giving the dog garlic.) I plan to start feeding our dog this tiny amount of garlic powder to see if it really does keep ticks at bay.

How do you deal with ticks? Leave a comment and share your wisdom!

May 4, 2017

What Does Keto Living Look Like? With a Simple Keto Meal Plan

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

 Many people have written to me, asking questions about my keto (LCHF) diet! I'm so happy word is getting out about this healthy lifestyle (which is good for almost everyone, not just diabetics) and I'm happy to answer questions whenever possible. There are some questions that come up again and again, though, so I think it's best to answer them on the blog.

One series of questions was well asked by long time reader Staci, who actually attempted keto at one point. She wrote:
"I would be curious in hearing what a normal day looks like for you with food - breakfast, lunch, snacks, supper, even a treat. I'd like to see what you eat versus what the kids and husband eat - whether anything is different for them than you or how you incorporate other things for the family that you don't have yourself...
I did [keto] for a full week and a half before flopping...I really felt hungry a lot! I would find myself grabbing some pork rinds...and then just felt like I was still eating junky because of grabbing those.
Also, I felt like I was ALWAYS cooking!!! Sadly, it is faster to grab a package of convenience food than it is to whip up something and leave yourself with dishes to be dealt with afterward. I homeschool four kids, so time can feel tight.  It just seemed like I was adding more work load to my day."

Always Cooking? 

I hear this a lot from people who are attempting to convert to a keto diet - or a whole foods diet, for that matter. I do get it. Life is busy, especially when you're a mom. Cooking can seem like a burden. And then there's dishes to do afterward. Ugh. Here's how I handle it.

First and foremost, my mindset matters. Yes, it seems easier to grab processed food. But what is the real cost of that food? For me personally, the cost is raised blood sugar leading to a host of awful and deadly side effects. For you, it might be less energy (because one thing is certain: going keto will make you feel far more energetic!), poorer overall health, and training children to eat in a way that, if they wish to be healthy, will mean having to re-learn food as an adult. So I try to think of the wonderful health benefits of a home cooked meal, rather than thinking of cooking as a burden.

Second, I don't spend hours in the kitchen every day. Breakfast takes maybe 10 minutes to prepare for myself. On the weekends, I cook a larger, family breakfast and it can take 10 - 30 minutes. (There are ways to reduce that time; more on that later.) I rarely eat lunch, but when I do, I whip up something in less than 5 minutes. Dinner takes the longest, but I generally try to choose meals that take about 30 minutes or less to prepare. So in total, I'm cooking - at worst - an hour a day. I don't think that's bad at all!

Third, a little bit of planning can reduce cooking time a lot. For example, if you eat a lot of bacon, you know it can take some time to cook, no matter your favorite cooking method. So I know people who cook a week's worth of bacon on the weekend. They toss the cooked bacon in a Ziplock bag and bam! they've just shaved off a ton of weekday cooking time. I've never gotten around to doing this, but if I know I'll be having bacon later in the day, I do cook extra at breakfast time, so I don't have to cook it again later in the day.

Other ideas include making egg "muffins" and freezing them; cooking eggs in the microwave; boiling a bunch of eggs and keeping them in a bowl in the fridge (for breakfast or snacks or salads); freezing keto pancakes; making 90 second bread (you can toast it, if you like); keeping meat (canned, or leftovers from dinner, made in the Instant Pot or slow cooker during a spare moment) to pop into salads or "sandwiches"...As you get more familiar with keto cooking, you'll also see it's just as easy to make freezer meals, crock pot meals, and Instant Pot meals as it is with "regular" food.


No one wants this.

My least favorite part of cooking: doing dishes. But you know what? I've learned it really doesn't take long to get this chore done.

I empty the dishwasher (or have a kid do it) in the morning, and pop in the previous' nights dishes. (Yep, I leave dishes in the sink overnight! My hubby has a long commute, and I like to eat dinner with him. So by the time we eat, I'm way too tired to get the dishes done.) If the dishwasher isn't full, we keep adding dishes as we use them. (Usually my kids put their own dishes in the dishwasher, even though I often have to re-arrange them later.) I run the dishwasher when it's full, and then start all over again. 

If there are enough dishes in the sink at any given time, it still only takes about 10 minutes to empty the dishwasher and refill it. And I'm working on training my kids to do dishes, too.

But I'm Hungry!

No one on keto should ever go hungry. The key to feeling full is to get enough fat in your diet. It's not enough to simply cook your foods in butter. You should have a good portion of fat in every meal.

However, if you feel hungry between or after meals, eat something low- or no-carb with plenty of fat in it. A piece of cheese, a handful of walnuts, or some pork rinds should do the trick. The ever-popular keto "fat bombs" work, too. Just watch the carb intake and make sure you don't often eat sugar substitutes. (More on that in the "desserts" section.)

My Basic Meals

This is what works for me. If there are things here you hate to eat, don't feel obliged to eat them. Keto offers tons of food options, so there's no need to choke down food you hate (which is a sure fire way to tempt yourself to cheat).
Keto pancakes or crepes.

Breakfast: I usually eat eggs and bacon for breakfast. For me, it's filling enough I rarely need lunch, and I like that. I use backyard fresh eggs cooked runny and I dip the bacon in the runny yolks. Yum! Sometimes I'll cook scrambled eggs, or make an omelet, or so some other egg variation. I always cook the eggs either in bacon drippings or lots of butter, and I salt my eggs liberally (because your body requires more salt when eating keto).

When I want to mix things up a bit, I have keto crepes/pancakes, or I eat non-breakfast food for breakfast.

Admittedly, my children are not huge fans of eggs, so they often have something different. Currently, they tend to have a carb-laden food, like bagels with cream cheese - but I want to change their carb-loving ways, so we're working on this. Sometimes, I give them leftover dinner food. (Low carb pizza is their favorite breakfast!) Whatever the case, I keep their breakfast quick and easy to prepare. My husband grabs hard boiled eggs from the fridge on his way out the door each morning.

On weekends, we typically all eat the same breakfast foods. I do sometimes make toast or English muffins with homemade jam (or store bought peanut butter) for the kids.
Cherry tomatoes make carb counting easier.

Lunch: When I first started keto, I ate lunch every day. Usually I had no-bread BLTs: A piece of large leaf lettuce with mayo on it, two slices of bacon, and three cherry tomatoes, sliced in half. (I like cherry tomatoes because they are much easier to carb-count than large tomatoes.) I had two of these "sandwiches" at a time. Other times, I had chicken or tuna salad: meat, lettuce, maybe some hard boiled eggs chopped up, a little mayo, and sometimes up to 5 cherry tomatoes. 

Once I got into my keto groove, I found I wasn't often hungry at lunch - so I usually skip it! Because there are benefits to intermittent fasting. But please, if you're hungry, eat.

My children do eat lunch, but again, I keep it simple: Dinner leftovers, sandwiches, and meat roll ups (basically a sandwich using thin-sliced meat in place of bread) are common. 

My husband eats at work these days, so I prepare his lunch the night before. He always has some tinned fish (What can I say? He loves it!) and a salad. I try to vary his salad, but it's typical for it to have chopped hard boiled eggs or meat leftover from dinner, in order to get more protein in the meal.

Snacks: My husband has a long commute and doesn't get home until hours after the regular dinner hour, so I often snack in the afternoon. My most common snack is a handful of walnuts. Sometimes I also eat what I call "pleasure food:" 4 strawberries, raspberries, or cherry tomatoes (if I haven't had them already that day and won't be having them with dinner), or maybe up to 4 squares of Lilly's dark chocolate. Sometimes I also eat flavored pork rinds. (I'm working on ways to flavor my own so I can feel better about consuming them. Remember, thinking of pork rinds as junk food goes with your old ideas of healthy eating. Good, clean pork rinds are a great source of fat, and have zero carbs.) Other times, I might eat some salted hard boiled eggs or a small serving of fermented sauerkraut.

My kids mostly snack on nuts, fruit (home dehydrated and fresh), trail mix, and cheese. (Again, I'm working on trying to get them more low carb.)
Meatballs can be low carb! Photo courtesy of Mack Male

Dinner: Typically, we all eat the same dinner. I have a Pinterest board of keto recipes, as well as a Facebook group of shared keto recipes, that I draw inspiration from. Sometimes the meal is simple, like meat and one veggie. I up the fat content of the meal by making a sauce from heavy cream, or by adding cheese, or by adding tons of butter to my plate.

Desserts: I try to keep sweets to a minimum...for several reasons. First, our bodies sometimes get a spike in blood sugar after eating any type of sweet - even if it's Stevia or an artificial sweetener that's not supposed to spike blood sugar. This hasn't happened to me yet, but those who eat such sweeteners a lot are more apt to have it happen over time. Second, I think it's healthier to train ourselves away from sweets. Third, it's easy for the carbs to creep up accidentally when we eat sweets. That said, I do make my chocolate icy, and I do eat Lilly's dark chocolate bar squares. (Health food stores usually sell them cheaper than Amazon.) It's really all about chocolate for me, folks! I have also twice eaten some Stevia-sweetened cheesecake my mom-in-law made, and I plan on experimenting with some of the very low carb baked goods in the Cooking Keto with Kristie cookbook.

Chocolate icy dessert.

Simple Meal Plan

Breakfast - 2 slices bacon and 2 eggs cooked in bacon drippings.
Lunch - 2 breadless BLTs (Two slices bacon, three cherry tomatoes sliced in half, mayo, all on a large leaf lettuce)
Dinner - Pork chops with spicy green beans
Snack - Handful of walnuts

Breakfast - Cream Cheese Pancakes with butter
Lunch - Tuna salad (Canned tuna, mayo, celery, hard boiled eggs, lettuce)
Dinner - Cauliflower Chowder
Snack - Chunk of cheddar cheese

Breakfast - Omelette with cheese, mushrooms, olives, and spinach
Lunch - Bunless burger (wrap it in large leaf lettuce or eat with fork)
Dinner - Creamy Chicken Garlic
Snack - 5 strawberries with cream

Breakfast - Sauteed greens with 2 scrambled eggs and 2 slices bacon
Lunch - Chicken salad (canned or roasted chicken, mayo, lettuce, celery)
Dinner - Steak with pan fried eggplant
Snack - Jalapeno poppers

Breakfast - 2 egg "muffins" (basically, scrambled eggs baked in muffin cups; add chopped green bell pepper, some chopped bacon, and some cheese.)
Lunch - Leftovers from dinner
Dinner - Nachos made with pork rinds instead of chips
Snack - 2 hardboiled eggs

Breakfast - 2 scrambled eggs, a slice of ham, and 90 second "bread," toasted with butter
Lunch - Turkey roll ups (thin sliced turkey with mayo or cream cheese, shredded cheese, sliced olives)
Dinner - Keto meatballs and roasted broccoli
Snack - Pepperoni slices microwaved until crisp

Breakfast - Bunless burger topped with an egg
Lunch - Chicken wings
Dinner - Country Vegetable Lasagna
Snack - Flavored pork rinds
Dessert - Chocolate Icy

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.

Apr 27, 2017

30 Nights on a Casper Mattress - Our Review, Plus a Discount

This post contains links to the Casper mattress website. If you click any of these links, you will receive $50 off your mattress order, and I will receive a $50 Amazon gift card. All opinion are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Either my hubby or I have always been unhappy with our mattress. When we were newlyweds, hubs wouldn't go mattress shopping with me. "Just buy what you like," he said. Famous last words. I chose a very firm mattress that made his back ache. When we moved, we didn't bring that 16 year old mattress with us because it was literally falling apart, and we ended up sleeping on a mattress left behind by the previous owners...which made both our backs ache, it was so hard. (No wonder they left it behind!)

If it had been my decision alone, I probably would have replaced this cast off by shopping a local sale and buying a medium-firmness box spring mattress. But my hubby had had it. His mind was absolutely set on buying a Casper. So I did some research on the mattress, looking mostly at Amazon reviews and mattress review websites. I admit, I was not impressed by what I read. But hubby kept saying, "There's a 100 day return policy. There's no risk of losing our money. A lot of people really love it. I want to try it."

So, I ordered the Casper mattress.

First of All, What is Casper?

If you haven't already heard about this mattress, here's the scoop: Casper mattresses combine memory foam (which offers conformity to the body, and, many people feel, comfort) and latex (which cools the bed, since memory foam can make you sleep hot). Casper mattresses are only available online, and I believe they were the first online mattress company to offer a 100 night trial. (If you decide you don't like the mattress at any time during this trial, just call them up and Casper will remove the mattress from your home for free and return every penny of your money. Returned mattresses go to a local thrift store.) Shipping is free.

Delivery and Set Up
This is how the Casper mattress arrived.

Right away, I had to admit it was fantastic not to have to worry about arranging the mattress delivery. The Casper came via UPS. (Worried about it being stolen? There's an option to have it delivered only if you're home to sign for it.). Our king sized mattress came in a box measuring about 41 in. x 19 in. x 19 in. It was too heavy for me to handle easily, so I let the UPS guy get it into the house. The box looked a bit banged up, but the mattress inside was perfectly fine.

When my hubby got home, he carried the box up the stairs. (Far easier than trying to get a box spring mattress up the stairs.) He immediately took the mattress out of the box and placed it on our box springs. Once he cut the disposable plastic cover open, the mattress instantly began expanding. It took under a minute for the mattress to open up, so he set it on our box springs. Within a minute or two, the mattress appeared fully expanded.

I was surprised it didn't smell chemically at all.

The First Night

We ended up sleeping on the mattress within two hours of setting it up.

My hubby, who sleeps mostly on his stomach and back, loved the mattress right away. He said he felt like he was floating on a cloud. The next morning, he said it was the first time in our married life that he hadn't awakened with a back ache.

Setting up the mattress.
My first night's experience was less wonderful. I was really uncomfortable sleeping on my side; the mattress made my hips hurt. I wasn't very comfy on my stomach, either. Once I switched to my back, however, I got comfortable and slept more soundly than I had in many years.

The Second Night

My hubby's alarm didn't go off and he overslept. He never used to oversleep! In fact, pre-Casper mattress, his hurting back woke him before his alarm went off.

I slept much better the second night. I could sleep on my side, stomach, or back; all were comfortable. My guess is that the mattress had relaxed more by this time - which is why I think it's a good idea to let the mattress sit for at least a day before sleeping on it.

Still, I didn't love the mattress. If I slept on my stomach, I felt like my rear was in the air. If I slept on my side, the mattress felt too hard. I was really only comfortable on my back. But I was really comfortable that way, sleeping deeply and well.

The End of the First Week
The mattress fully expanded.

By the end of the work week, we were completely sold on the mattress.

My body finally got used to the uniqueness of the Casper, and I could now sleep comfortably in any position I desired. My hips didn't hurt, I didn't feel like my rear was in the air - I just felt cozy.

After 30 Nights

Hubby and I both sleep much more deeply than we have on any mattress either of us has ever slept on. My hubby's back doesn't ache in the mornings, and I don't toss and turn, toss and turn like I used to.

It may sound weird, but this mattress is both soft and firm. Firm because it supports your body, but soft because it conforms to it. It's radically unlike a traditional box spring mattress, which is why it took me a while to get used to it. But if the idea of a firm mattress scares you, remember that my hubs has never liked firm mattresses - yet he loves the Casper.

On this mattress, we both feel really well supported, without any part of our bodies being compressed or achy.

The Cons

*It might take you a while to get used to sleeping on this mattress; it's definitely different from a traditional box spring set up.
* Casper offers only one mattress (in all the standard sizes). When you're used to an abundance of choices, it may seem like a con.

The Pros

* Easy delivery and set up.
* No noticeable outgassing.
* Your partner's movement is much less noticeable than with a box spring mattress.
* Excellent body support; the mattress conforms to your body.
* This bed is quiet - not squeaky.
* So far, we haven't felt hot sleeping on this mattress.
* Comes with a 10 year warranty.
* Has a 100 day money back guarantee.
* Made in the U.S.A. 

If you purchase a Casper mattress through any link in this blog post, you'll get $50 off your order! (And I'll get a $50 Amazon gift card.)

Apr 17, 2017

How I Reversed My Diabetes

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Shortly before Christmas 2016, I had blood tests performed for the first time in about 8 years. I'd switched doctors - and it turns out, my new doc was much more on his toes than doctors I'd seen previously. He called me a few days after my appointment and gave me some bad news: I had type II diabetes - and I had it bad. My blood sugar was 260, and my A1c test, which indicates what a person's blood sugar has averaged in recent months, was 9.5%. At 9% medical guidelines say to put the patient on insulin.

I was shocked. In fact, I was so upset, I mistakenly hung up on the doctor before he was done speaking with me!

But unfortunately, this wasn't my first brush with diabetes.

Beginning to Understand Messed Up Diabetes "Science"

Eight years earlier, while pregnant with my second child, I'd been diagnosed with prenatal diabetes - a type of diabetes that only strikes pregnant women, and then (usually) disappears. (Though having it means you're at higher risk of developing type II diabetes later in life.) At that time, I had to be medicated, and went through all the standard nutritional training that's given to diabetics of all types.

I had a terrible time getting my blood sugar under control, and I remember thinking, "Carbohydrates turn to sugar in the body. What if I just lower my daily carb count?" So I did, and my blood sugar improved...but my dietitian freaked out and told me I had to eat more carbs. Once she ordered me to go home and eat three cups of popcorn. "It will be good for you," she insisted. I did as ordered...and got very sick, my blood sugar skyrocketing.

In fact, every time I followed the dietician's advice - which was just standard American Diabetic Association stuff - my blood sugar got worse. When I ate lower amounts of carbs, my blood sugar improved. I hated being medicated while pregnant, so eventually I just stopped telling the dietician I was eating fewer carbs, anyway (one piece of bread a day, no pasta, no rice, and no popcorn). My blood sugar stabilized (though it was still high) and my baby was born healthy.

And yet, my doctors scolded me, saying, "If you just eat the way we tell you to, you'll avoid getting diabetes later in life." When I explained that previous to my pregnancy I ate just the way they were telling me to eat now, they looked at me incredulously.

A Whole Food Diet Wasn't Enough

Fast forward to my recent diagnosis. I'd been eating a whole foods diet for a long time - and a lower carb one at that. I avoided wheat and rice, though I did not entirely omit them from my diet. I ate tons of veggies, and rarely ate fruit or sweets. So I was frustrated when my doctor said, "You really need to stop drinking soda."

"Doc, I never drink soda. Not even diet soda."

"Well you need to stop eating sweets."

"Doc, I very rarely eat sugary things. Not never, but rarely."

"Well, all that processed food..."

"Doc, I almost never eat processed food!"

When I explained how I did eat, he was surprised. We concluded that my genes play a big part in my diabetes, since there is type II on both sides of my family. (In fact, everyone on my father's side has type II - even the thin folks. Yep, you can be thin and still get type II diabetes.)

But then my doctor said the words that changed everything: "Look into a keto diet."

The Key Diet for Diabetics

I'd heard of the ketogenic ("keto") diet before. I knew it was "another low carb diet," but didn't know anything beyond that. In fact, I figured it was pretty much the same thing as the Atkin's diet (which, incidentally, was the only diet I ever successfully lost weight on...and trust me, over the years I worked hard at soooo many diets!).

So I went home and started Googling. Fortunately for me, I ran across a fantastic Facebook group called Reversing Diabetes. Here I learned that it wasn't just a keto diet I needed - it was a therapeutic keto diet that was required. If I followed that diet, I learned, I could, like many thousands of other people, reverse my diabetes.

Happily, the diet was pretty effortless for me. I cut all wheat and rice from my diet. I cut all fruit. I chose only lower carb vegetables. I made sure I ate only moderate amounts of meat. (There is some controversy about whether or not high amounts of protein can cause problems for diabetics.) And the biggest change? I dramatically increased the good fats in my diet. In fact, healthy fats (like olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, bacon drippings, and lower carb dairy like butter, cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, and cream cheese) now made up 70% or more of my diet!

For most people, all that fat is a hard thing to wrap their mind around. But study after study shows that "good fats" are GOOD for our bodies. (I'm not talking about unhealthy fats - processed polyunsaturated fats such as corn, canola, soybean, peanut, sunflower, and grapeseed oil, or processed trans fats, like margarine and vegetable oils.) In fact, countless studies show the saturated fats that have been demonized in recent years are even good for you. (Read more about healthy vs. unhealthy fats here.)

The amazing thing about this was that unlike every other diet I had ever been on, I'm not hungry all the time. I feel totally satisfied, even with smaller meals. In fact, I often skip lunch because I'm just not hungry.

The Results of Keto
Left: Before keto. Right: 25 lbs lighter after 3 months...and still losing!

And doing this therapeutic keto diet (also called "Low Carb, High Fat," or "LCHF"), here were the results:

* Within a few days, my blood sugar had dropped to the low 100s - not quite "normal," but much better and definitely out of the immediate danger zone.

* Within about a week, my blood sugar was in the 80s and 90s; that's generally accepted as totally normal!

* After three months, I'd lost 25 lbs. and three clothing sizes. The weight just melted off. I've always struggled with my weight, but this weight loss was effortless!

* After three months, my cholesterol, which had been a bit high, was normal. My bad cholesterol was down and my good cholesterol was up.

* After three months, my A1c was 5%. NORMAL! In fact, according to my blood work, I no longer have diabetes!
Of course, there is no cure for diabetes. I am still diabetic. If I change the way I eat, my blood sugar will rise again. BUT as long as I continue to eat therapeutic keto, my blood sugar will remain in the normal zone. Without medication!

Living with Keto

Can I live with this diet for the rest of my life? Absolutely, unequivocally YES! I feel full and energetic and well. Do I miss some foods? Occasionally. If I have cravings, which isn't often, it's mostly for popcorn. (I think because it's hard for me to get enough salt in my diet...because when your body starts burning fat instead of clinging to it, it also stops clinging to salt; so you need to consume more salt while doing keto.) Eating flavored pork rinds (I know! I can hardly believe I eat them, either!) totally wipes out that craving. And fruit. How sad is it that I finally got the fruit orchard I've longed for and now I can't eat the fruit?! But I can eat some low carb berries, like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, in small quantities. And, joyfully, I enjoy and appreciate them more now than I used to.

Most of all, knowing that I'm preventing all the horrific complications of diabetes, including:

* Heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke
* Loss of vision
* Nerve damage and loss of limbs
* Kidney disease
* Hearing impairment
* Gastroparesis (slow emptying stomach)
* and Alzheimer's disease

is all I need to keep me on track! If I'm ever tempted to stray, I just remind myself of the very real fact that carbs/sugar are poison to my diabetic body. I really have no desire to eat poison.

This is so do-able. Many thousands of type I and type II diabetics have done it.

But What About the American Diabetes Association?

I know some diabetics who go on therapeutic keto and get their blood sugar down like mine, only to have their doctor tell them they must eat more carbs because their blood sugar should not go below 7%.


Notice that the doctor clearly understands that more carbs equals a higher blood sugar count.

Also notice that the doctor doesn't want his patient's blood sugar to be normal. (Normal is 5.7% or lower, folks.)

How can this be? I can't get into the minds of these doctors, but my opinion, and the opinion of Dr. Bernstein (who is a type I diabetic who was the first in modern times to write about how low carb diets control diabetes), many doctors see diabetics as cash cows. Get some diabetic patients, and you're in for years of expensive medical treatment due to direct treatment and complications. I hate to think any doctor would put his financial gain over the health of his patients, but I can come up with no other reason why doctors would insist their patient's blood sugar should be above normal. (By the way, my doctor is not that way. He celebrated with me when my blood sugar returned to normal.)

What about the American Diabetes Association? Why do they advocate a high carbohydrate diet for diabetics (even while mentioning that carbs raise blood sugar)? Again, that's tough to answer. Certainly plenty of research shows that high carbs equal high blood sugar in diabetics, while low carbs equal low blood sugar in diabetics. So one has to wonder if the ADA is also playing the money game. Are pharmaceuticals funding the ADA? I don't know, but it sure makes me wonder.

Frequently Mentioned Concerns

But going into ketoacidosis is deadly!

Yes, it can be. But fortunately ketoacidosis is something completely different from from going into ketosis, which is what you do on a keto diet. Learn more about the difference here.

But you have to eat carbs or your body shuts down!

First of all, no healthy diet should have zero carbs, because you'd be unable to eat any vegetables. Secondly, you do not need to eat carbs. If you reduce your carb intake, your body simply starts making it's own carbs! And it starts burning fat instead of carbs. Don't believe me? Check out these sources:

BioMed Central: "Very low carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass"

Huffington Post: "Actually, You Don't Need Carbohydrates for Energy"

Graeme Thomas: "Are Carbohydrates Essential Or Not?"

Do you get enough nutrients without eating fruit?

Yes! Eating a good mix of lower carb veggies gives me all the good vitamins and nutrients I need.

But fruit is good for you!

Sort of. Fruit is full of sugar, which is why historically it's been treated like a dessert. Yes, it has nutrients in it, but nothing you can't get from vegetables and animal-based foods. And yes, it has fiber. But that does not take away the high amount of sugar/carbs the fruit has, and the fact that they affect your blood sugar.

But low carb diets count net carbs!

Most low carb diets do; that's true. They go by the theory that fiber in food "cancels out" some of the carbohydrates - so eaters subtract the fiber from any given food's carb count. This is why some people refer to certain recipes as "zero carb" even though they clearly have carbs in them.

The problem is, the carbs in such foods still affect your blood sugar. Fiber may delay your blood sugar reaction, but there is still a reaction. So while counting net carbs might be fine for non-diabetics, it's a no-no for diabetics.

But how can you lose weight while eating all that fat?

Because you've been lied to. In the 1980s, dieticians demonized fat, but the science was based on now-acknowledged made up stuff and some very dubious studies. And did you know that one of the big pushers of the modern low fat diet/whole grains movement, Nathan Pritikin, discovered, (according to Sally Fallon in her landmark book Nourishing Traditions), that a fat-free diet lead to many medical problems, including depression, difficulty concentrating, mineral deficiencies, hardened arteries, and weight grain?

Fallon also points out that fat wasn't officially blamed for heart disease until the 1950s. Since that time, "the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four." And yet, the rate of heart disease and obesity became epidemic during that same period.

Natural fats are good for you. Your body needs them!

But you'll die of heart disease eating all that fat!

Actually, no. The world's top cardiologists now say dietary fat has nothing to do with heart disease. In fact, they say healthy fats can improve your heart health and that carbohydrates are probably more to blame for heart disease. This, this and this are just three of the many studies that have come out in recent years that support these claims.

I could never eat such a restrictive diet.

Actually, unless you eat anything and everything, you already eat a restrictive diet. :)  But truly, I don't feel deprived. One of the joys of adding fat back into your life is that everything tastes so good! As any good chef will tell you, fat equals flavor. And there is such a wide variety of really delicious food you can eat on this diet, it's hard to feel deprived.

Get real; what's most challenging about this diet and how have you overcome these things?

I haven't had a ton of cravings, but when they hit, they hit hard. I already mentioned my popcorn craving and how flavored pork rinds vanquish them. (They have to be flavored for me to find them edible. I'm going to experiment with making my own, more wholesome flavorings for plain pork rinds.) I also sometimes really miss the freshness of fruit in my mouth, even though I really never ate much fruit until we moved to our new homestead last year. I overcome this by knowing the exact carb count of cherry tomatoes (1 per tomato), and often have 4 or so for a snack. I also cautiously eat a few strawberries or raspberries now or then. Chocolate cravings at that time of month are challenging, too, because I think I'm allergic to Stevia (I feel lousy after eating it), and I just can't make myself eat bad-for-you artificial sweeteners. I plan to experiment with some other natural sweeteners (like Erythritol) soon. When I was sick a few months back, I craved carbs - I suppose because that's what I grew up eating while sick. I learned to make "90 Second Bread," which has only 5.7 carbs per serving.

Another challenge is eating out. We don't do it often, and if we go to an American style restaurant, I'm just fine. But if my hubby craves Chinese or Mexican? Yikes. Recently, I picked what I thought would be an okay meal at a Chinese restaurant: beef and green beans. But it spiked my blood sugar; it had a sauce, which I'm sure had either sugar or flour or both - even though I questioned the waitress about any sugars or flours in the dish and she assured me it would be without them.

People tend to think family gatherings would be challenging, but I'm blessed with a family that understands the seriousness of diabetes and tries to make sure there's something I can eat at all gatherings. If you're not so fortunate, plan to bring keto food to the gathering, or eat before the gathering.

Further Reading

The Skinny on Fat
Why the War on Fat Was a Huge Mistake
23 Studies on Low Carb and Low Fat Diets 
The Ketogenic Diet 101
A Guide to Healthy Low Carb Eating with Diabetes
Facebook's Reversing Diabetes Group Files 
My Facebook Group of Keto Recipes (Very Low Carb/Keto/LCHF Recipes)
My Pinterest Page of Keto Recipes (LCHF Diabetic Recipes)
Diabetic friendly recipes on this blog
Signs You May be a Diabetic

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