Two Essentials to Add to Your First Aid Kit

Though I hope you’ll never need either of these essentials, there are two items, ones which you may never have heard of, I believe every first aid kit should be stocked with: activated charcoal and yunnan baiyo.  Between various cuts, upset stomachs, and hangovers, activated charcoal and yunnan baiyo have saved the day for my family upon several occasions. Here is what you need to know:

 

Activated Charcoal

I always keep capsules of activated charcoal at home for emergencies.  There have been a couple times (like the time I got food poisoning or that time my dog ate a poisonous bougainvillea flower) when I used activated charcoal to quickly remedy the problem. Activated charcoal has been used by emergency trauma centers worldwide. It works by trapping toxins or poison in its millions of pores through the entire length of the stomach and small and large intestines preventing them from being reabsorbed by the body by flushing them out. In fact, it is estimated activated charcoal can reduce absorption of poisonous substances by up to 60%.  It’s inexpensive, odorless, and tasteless, and absolutely should not be confused with BBQ charcoal!  You should be able to find it at most health food stores or even some health-conscious grocery stores in the supplement section or online.  Drink lots of water throughout the day when you take it, as it can dehydrate the body if plenty of water isn’t consumed.Activated-Charcoal-Cap.jpg

Top 10 Activated Charcoal Uses

Emergency Toxin Removal

 

Hopefully, you or your loved ones will never ingest something poisonous, but it can happen. As mentioned above, I’ve used activated charcoal when I got food poisoning. Activated charcoal binds with most organic compounds, pesticides, mercury, fertilizers or bleach. It is also used by medics to combat accidental or purposeful overdose of drugs.  Take the activated charcoal as soon as possible in these situations, definitely within an hour of ingestion. Call 911 in the event of an emergency as proper dosing is imperative. Remember to drink plenty of water in conjunction with taking the charcoal.

Alleviates Gas and Bloating

Feeling gassy or uncomfortable from a meal?  Try taking activated charcoal, which binds any gas-causing byproducts in food that cause discomfort. Take activated charcoal before your meal if you know you’re going to eat something likely to cause gas or bloating.

Treats Alcohol Poisoning and Can Prevent Hangovers

While activated charcoal does not absorb alcohol, most alcohol is not consumed in its pure form.  It’s often mixed with chemical fillers or artificial sweeteners.  Activated charcoal will work to remove these toxins that contribute to poisoning in the body.  Some studies have also shown it can greatly reduce blood alcohol concentrations.

Mold Cleansing

Toxic mold can grow in our bodies even without us knowing it.  Flooding, leaks or poor ventilation in the home (especially in rooms like the bathroom, laundry room, or basements) allow mold to thrive. As a result, mold can live in the body and can cause people to suffer from depression, decreased brain function, heart disease, liver or kidney dysfunction, impaired immune system function, severe respiratory issues, headaches, irritated eyes, or vomiting.  While some mold is clearly visible, some mold is not, and can be tested by a professional if your family is experiencing symptoms like wheezing, watery eyes, rashes, coughing, or headaches that can’t be explained in other ways. (Source: Chronic Fatigue and Nutrition, Dr. Axe )

Water Purifying

Whenever I’m traveling somewhere I know I won’t have access to clean, purified water, I always carry activated charcoal sticks. You can put these sticks in water to trap any solvents, pesticides, industrial waste, or other chemicals without changing the taste of the water.  Drinking plenty of water is incredibly important, but make sure you’re drinking clean water.  Even our typical tap water is toxic and contains plenty of chemicals, fluoride, and toxins (source: Dr. Axe, PublicIntegrity.org).   Look for activated charcoal filters to purify the water throughout your home or even countertop models.

Whitens Teeth

Looking for an inexpensive, quick way to get pearly white teeth?  Just dip your wet toothbrush in activated charcoal powder and brush your teeth with it a few times a week to reduce stains and improve the pH balance in the mouth.  It will also absorb plaque and help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum disease. When brushing with activated charcoal, I like to put paper towels down around the sink, as the powder will stain clothes and grout. Brush your teeth with it, sip and swish some water, then spit and rinse out your mouth until your spit is clear again. No need to brush with toothpaste after.  Continue this practice a few times a week for best results.  That being said, if you have porcelain veneers, caps, or crowns, activated charcoal can cause staining. (Source: Wellness Mama)

 

Yunnan Baiyo

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In traditional Chinese medicine, yunnan baiyo has been used for centuries to stop bleeding externally or internally.  Interestingly, this medicine was a staple of every Chinese soldier’s first aid kit and was later used extensively during the Vietnamese War due to its incredible effectiveness in treating battlefield injuries (Source).  Its reputation is equal to that of penicillin in the US.  I don’t know all the ingredients, but it is said the main ingredients are two types of ginseng and several members of the yam family (Source: IVC Journal).

Yunnan baiyo can be taken orally or topically, depending on what you need it for.  For external cuts, I just mix some powder with a tiny bit of water or saliva to make a paste which I apply directly to the cut.  You will be amazed by the swiftness which it works. The powder is even used by many veterinarians (I actually first learned of this medicine when my dog had a bad cut). Some people, however, can be allergic. I recommend consulting a professional before using it so you can get familiar with dosages. Pick up yunnan baiyo from your local Chinese herbalist or order it online.

 

Looking for more tips to lead a holistic lifestyle?  Check out more of my blog posts or shoot me a message on my website.

What to do with Beans (plus recipe!)

Beans are a fantastic, nutrient-dense, protein-packed plant food that offer tons of fiber, B vitamins,iron, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. They are low in calories and have been found to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by cooking beans, possibly because they don’t know how.  Up until recently, actually, I had been using canned beans.  It wasn’t until I started soaking (non-canned) beans properly, which was quite simple to do, that I noticed my body could easily digest beans, where as normally I feel like crap after eating beans.

Cooking Beans

-Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.

-Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking).

-After soaking, rinse, fill pot with fresh water (about 4-6 cups), bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.  To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.

-Cover and simmer for the suggested time.

-Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

Quick tips: For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours. Or use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!).  Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.

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Kombu is a type of dried seaweed. Add a small piece while cooking your beans to improve digestibility.

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Cooking with Beans

Need ideas of how to use beans?  Try any of the following:

-Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.

-Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.

-Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.

-Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.

-Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

-Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.

Here’s what I made…

After soaking black beans overnight, I decided to use the beans for a Mexican shrimp bowl.  At least that’s what I’m calling it.  Feel free to pick and choose your favorite ingredients, but here’s what I used to cook for two people:

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-avocado (1/2)

-shrimp (about 12)

-4 garlic gloves, minced

-1/2 onion, diced

-fresh, dried chilies, minced (if you like your food spicy)

-salt, pepper

-2 tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed

-optional: rice or polenta cubes, red cabbage

unnamed-3To prepare this dish I soaked the black beans over night and then cooked them in 6 cups water with a strip of kombu for an hour.

-Heat large pan with olive oil.  When hot, add onions and garlic and cook for two minutes.  Lightly salt.

-Add shrimp, chilis, salt, and pepper.   If cooking pre-made polenta, toss in polenta cubes.  Cook for about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked.

-Layer red cabbage and beans on the bottom of a bowl.  Add the shrimp, onions, and polenta on top.  Slice up some avocado and serve!

Is Gluten the New Fat?

For the past 40 years, Americans have been lead to believe that any form of fat and all types of cholesterol were bad for us.  New studies have proven that this idea is outdated, but today, the new “evil” is gluten.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are by now you’ve at least heard the word gluten.  There are entire sections at the grocery store devoted to gluten-free products and I don’t know about you all, but out of the blue everyone I know is suddenly gluten intolerant.

What is gluten?

Gluten, Latin for “glue,” is a name for proteins that act as an adhesive glue, keeping together foods like breads, pastas, flour, etc.  Gluten exists in wheat, barley, and rye and can be found in many products, whether it’s our food or personal care products, like toothpaste or shampoo.  The “sticky” nature of gluten makes it hard to breakdown and absorb nutrients.

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What are some symptoms of gluten sensitivity? 

Depression, inflammation, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, or fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, hives/rashes, miscarriages, nausea/vomiting, sugar cravings, brain fog, malabsorption of food, dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or infertility.

Inflammation can also cause “leaky gut,”which makes us more susceptible to future food sensitivities and puts us at risk for developing autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders in the future.  Some of these diseases linked to inflammation include: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroidtis, arthritis, or schizophrenia. People with Celiacs disease share these same symptoms but on a more extreme level.  It’s also possible that some people just don’t show symptoms, but are fighting the attack elsewhere in their body, like in the nervous system.

But didn’t we always eat gluten? 

Our diet has changed drastically from what our ancestors ate. We used to thrive off of high-fat diet, low-carb diets, but now our diet consists of mainly carbs and significantly less fat.

Ancestors                                  Modern Diet

-Fat 75% of diet                            -Carbs 60% of diet

-Protein 20% of diet                     -Fat 20%

-Carbs 5% of diet                          -Protein 20%

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We have far more disease today and different types of diseases than we ever did before.  The majority of our great-grandparents and generations older than them died from old age, but today many of us are plagued by cancer, heart disease, brain disease, obesity, or diabetes.  The answer to this conundrum exists not just in genes, but in our food.

As you can see from the numbers above, most of us eat an unbalanced diet.  Our percentage of carbohydrate intake are at unnaturally high levels, which takes a toll on our bodies. The first sign of celiacs, however, traces all the back to the first century AD, when a Greek doctor named Aretaeus of Cappadocia wrote about the symptoms and used the word “celiac” to name the illness in a medical textbook.  Gluten has always been a part of our diets since our ancestors learned to farm and mill wheat.  The gluten we eat today, though, hardly resembles the gluten in our diet ten thousand years ago.  Today our food is far more processed and bio-engineering has us growing structurally-modified grains containing gluten that’s less tolerable.

So is a gluten-free diet for me?

Although I know people have healed themselves of ailments by removing gluten from the diet and although I’ve read the research on the links between gluten and neurodegenerative conditions, I full-heartedly believe in the idea of everything in moderation. I personally have not given up my bread products yet, but I eat much less of it and not every day, because a little bread every now and then probably won’t kill you.  The problem is, carbs, like sugar, can be addicting, so some people have a much harder time removing gluten from the diet.

One way to cut back on carbs, processed foods, or sugar is to fill up on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.  By adding in these other foods, it’s easier to naturally crowd out carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar.  I highly encourage everyone to do research for themselves, rather than hopping on the bandwagon without really knowing why.  There are probably way more products containing gluten than you know, some which may be surprising, and I’ve listed some of these products below.  I highly recommend the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD if you’re looking for more research and information.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or diabetes, or if it runs in your family, then I would think it best to stay away from gluten.  If you’re eating gluten and finding yourself suffering from headaches, abdominal pains, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned, then try at least one week of cutting out gluten and see if you can notice any improvements.

Which grains are gluten-free?

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and tee.

gluten-free-grains

Which gains contain gluten?

Barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ.

Random things that contain gluten:

Cosmetics, lipsticks/lip balm, medications, non-self-adhesive stamps and envelopes, play-doh, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, some vitamins and supplements.

There are lots of other foods and ingredients that contain gluten, so do some research if you’re planning on going gluten-free.

Sources:

Perlmutter, David, MD. Grain Brain. New York, NY.  Little, Brown and Company.