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9 Ways To Stay Healthy This Winter

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       Among the many festivities of Christmas and the New Year, there are many things that confirm winter is here in North Dakota; the freezing cold weather, the snow on the ground, ice on the roads, and countless advertisements and promotions for holiday shopping. But, one of the best signals of the changing seasons is the impossible-to-miss influenza vaccination campaign.

       “Get your flu shot for free here!” “It’s flu season; time to protect yourself and everyone else by getting your flu shot!” “Get a free t-shirt if you get your flu shot!” and even, “if you don’t get your flu shot, you’ll have to wear a mask!”

       Though we all hear these messages multiple times a day, one message we don’t hear enough is that influenza vaccines are not effective or even known to be safe. According to this CDC data, the 2018/2019 flu vaccine had an adjusted effectiveness rating of just 12 percent for those ages 50 and above, but the confidence interval was between negative 12 percent and positive 31 percent for ages 50 to 64 and a negative 29 to 41 in those over age 65. The negative confidence interval means the vaccine may actually make its recipient more susceptible to influenza infection. The 9 to 17-year group also had a confidence interval that dipped into the negative. The highest vaccine efficiency was seen in 6 months to 8-year-olds and was only 49%. Besides the fact that influenza vaccines are notoriously ineffective, they can even increase the spread of influenza itself (1, 2). To the majority of doctors, scientists, and laypeople, the term influenza is a series of symptoms that can be produced by a number of viruses (200 viruses, according to the Cochrane Library). But, to have actual influenza and not just one of the other 200 influenza-like viruses, you must be infected with the influenza virus. Very low percentages of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) are actually from the influenza virus. Being aware of these reports can ease the fear that the influenza vaccination campaign intends to spark in its customers.

       As for safety, “VAERS [our government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System] received 29,747 reports [of flu vaccine injury] after Hib vaccines [between 1990 and 2013]; 5179 (17%) were serious, including 896 reports of deaths. The median age was 6 months (range 0-1022 months). Sudden infant death syndrome was the stated cause of death in 384 (51%) of 749 death reports with autopsy/death certificate records. The most common nondeath serious AE categories were neurologic (80; 37%), other noninfectious (46; 22%) (comprising mainly constitutional signs and symptoms); and gastrointestinal (39; 18%) conditions” (3). If this wasn’t bad enough, the Harvard Pilgrim Study reports that only 1% of adverse effects are ever even reported to VAERS, which means that the devastation of influenza vaccine injuries/deaths are likely to be FAR more than what is written above, especially as influenza vaccines are pushed harder and harder with each consecutive year. This is all in addition to the complete lack of truly inert, saline placebo safety studies done on influenza vaccines. Though there are many ways to demonstrate that influenza vaccines are not safe, let’s cut to the chase and identify some ways that we can safely and effectively protect ourselves from getting sick this winter, and/or promote a fast recovery if sickness occurs.

1. If you or a loved one is over 1 year old, try taking fermented honey garlic or making homemade elderberry syrup. My family does both.

2. Try taking cod liver oil to maintain/increase vitamin D status during the darker winter months. We take this one. Did you know that adequate vitamin D status can prevent influenza virus infections (4, 5)? 

3. Eat foods high in preformed vitamin A, such as beef liver and cod liver oil. Vitamin A is critical for immune system function. 

4. Eat whole foods vitamin C, such as acerola cherries/powder, sauerkraut, camu camu powder, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. Stay hydrated for optimal lymphatic drainage, especially with warm liquids during cold months. The lymphatic system is heavily involved in the immune system.

6. Get some sleep! This is more easily said than done; however, it does wonders. I battle insomnia, but recently I’ve been using a “happy light” which is used to help regulate circadian rhythm and lessen Seasonal Affective Disorder. Though my sleep isn’t perfect, it is much improved as I now wake up only once a night versus 2+.

7. Of course, take your probiotics! These can be purchased in capsules or powders, but the best sources for diversity of probiotics and therapeutic doses of them can be found in homemade fermented foods and raw dairy. We make sure to drink plenty of raw milk, grapefruit kombucha, milk kefir, and/or eat sauerkraut on a daily basis.

8. Avoid sugar as much as possible…be careful with all those pies and cookies! 🙂

9. Exercise! Did you know that exercise can improve immune competency across the lifespan?

       There are many ways to maintain health during the winter, but in my opinion, these are the very basics that will hopefully keep all of our bases covered. Especially as family get-togethers are coming quickly, we need to prepare ourselves for potential sickness! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been sick plenty of times immediately after meeting with loved ones for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, if you choose to get an influenza vaccine, you can still use these methods to maintain a strong immune response. Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food, as Hippocrates said. Have a gorgeous, safe, healthy day, friends!

Diane Stanislowski is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public.

She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and three children and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.

The Fail-Proof Way to Prepare Your Pastured Thanksgiving Turkey

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       Have you ever taken on the challenge of preparing a Thanksgiving Turkey? With travel-worn friends and relatives gathered together to break bread, it’s no doubt that cooking the main dish for Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful.

       Because our family has not yet hosted Thanksgiving, we haven’t had the privilege of providing turkey for everyone. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t be prepared for future Thanksgivings!

       One intimidating aspect of preparing a Thanksgiving Turkey is picking the best recipe. Obviously, your recipe choice could either make or break your main dish. On top of that, many people don’t know how to cook a turkey, let alone properly shop for and prepare a pastured turkey, which is a completely different bird. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! In this article, we’ll show you the exact steps to a perfect holiday turkey:

  1. Check for local sources, such as your local grocery store. Even better, order from Bartlett Farms to have your turkey delivered right to your doorstep.
  2. Order well in advance: turkeys are in high demand during this time of the year, so it’s important to order ahead of time to get the quality turkey that you’re looking for.
  3. Thaw your bird or have it delivered fresh: thawing your turkey slowly over a period of hours/days in your refrigerator or in cold water is the best idea if it’s frozen, but a faster idea is to have it delivered fresh.
  4. Prepare your recipe: I’ve put three recipes from trusted sources at the end of this article. The blogger Sarah Pope recommends wet-brining pastured turkeys beforehand, as they tend to be dryer than conventionally raised (and brine-injected) turkeys. Here is how to do it. 
  5. Cook your bird in time for your guests: in addition to thawing time for a frozen turkey and using optional marinates/dry-rubs, planning a well-timed roast (or grilled!) turkey is essential as some recipes require many hours of cooking.
  6. Carve it properly and save the gravy: How to properly carve a turkey can be found here.
  7. Serve it hot with all your favorite holiday side dishes…and don’t forget homemade ice cream to go along with homemade pie at the end! PS– I love chocolate, so I add ¼ cup cocoa powder and a pinch of salt to my Nourishing Traditions Vanilla Ice Cream recipe on page 550. It is INCREDIBLE. My husband likes to add marshmallows to his. 🙂
  8. Don’t forget to save the bones and any scraps to make bone broth and have turkey soups and sandwiches in the following days…yum!

Here are 3 recipes that I’d use if I were making this year’s turkey:
1.The first (gluten free) recipe is from Nourished Kitchen.
2.The second recipe, called Maple Brined Turkey with Citrus and Herbs, is also from Nourished Kitchen.
3.The third recipe with stuffing is from Nourishing Traditions.

       It is a blessing to have friends and family, especially around the holidays. Always with several options for Thanksgiving dinners every year, it has been a gift to spend time with people I love and to taste many different kinds of turkey dinners. One of my favorites was done by my uncle in Moorhead, MN; he made an incredibly juicy roast turkey with a dry-rub beforehand. In the coming years, I hope to provide a dish just as delicious for those same people that have so generously loved and served me throughout my life. There really is a lot to be thankful for! As long as we plan far ahead of time (a week minimum) with the recipe, thawing, and marinade/dry-rub times, I’m sure we all can put smiles on the faces of our loved ones come Thanksgiving. Happy planning and stay warm, friends!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe?

3 Top Reasons To Avoid Soy Products (And Animals Fed Soy)

       Soy is everywhere. It appears in almost any processed food product, in baby formula, as a main dish and a condiment, and even in animal products from animals fed soy (second-hand soy? No thanks!). Some even consider soy a superfood–but is it really that good for you?

       The truth is that many people have soy sensitivities or allergies, and even if you don’t, soy can still have a negative impact on your health by creating hormone imbalances. Not so “super” anymore, are you, soy? In fact, hormonal changes are so well-noted in medical literature that they’re hard to miss. Some of the best examples of soy’s negative impact on hormones are delayed menstruation, endocrine disruption to match the degree of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, could potentially lead to breast cancer and pose a risk for those who have breast cancer, can suppress the pituitary-thyroid axis, and can drop testosterone levels in men. But, it doesn’t end here…it can affect our babies and the proper development of children: soy phytoestrogens could increase susceptibility to prostate cancer for our preborn baby boys, they could accelerate puberty in developing girls, and harm the reproductive system of females exposed to soy early in life (“…altered ovarian differentiation (i.e., multioocyte follicles), delayed vaginal opening, caused abnormal estrous cycles, decreased fertility, and delayed parturition”). According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “Toxicologists estimate that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phytoestrogens have been detected in dairy-based infant formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products. A recent study found that babies fed soy-based formula had 13,000 to 22,000 times more isoflavones in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula.” Thankfully, research is exposing the major problems with this popular “health food.”

      Though it’s almost impossible to completely avoid hormone disrupting foods, environments, and habits in our modern age, removing soy can make a significant difference.

Here are 3 top reasons to avoid soy:

  1. Hormonal disruption to the degree of damaged reproductive systems, suppressed thyroid, and cancer
  2. Allergies and sensitivities causing immune response and inflammation 
  3. Present in many processed foods that are better avoided in the first place. Soy is often given many different names, including “natural flavors.” Click here to learn some of soy’s different names.

      There are many negative aspects of soy, but that doesn’t mean we all must avoid all soy at all times. I appreciate Sarah Pope’s opinion on her blog The Healthy Home Economist: “Please note that fermented soy in small, condimental amounts as practiced in traditional Asian cultures is fine for those who have healthy thyroid function. Only miso, tempeh, natto, and traditionally brewed soy sauce fall under this category. In addition, if you want to sprinkle a few edamame on your salad or have a few small cubes of tofu in your miso soup from time to time, that is fine too. A little soy lecithin in a nonGMO snack food from time to time isn’t necessarily a problem either. Just don’t make it a regular part of your diet!

      If you have any sort of thyroid issues going on, however, it is really the best policy to avoid all soy all the time as soy is a potent goitrogen (thyroid suppressor) even if fermented.”

The truth is that I’m happy to avoid most soy, but I love certain soy products. Tamari (traditionally brewed soy sauce) and natto are two favorites of mine. I’ve tried to make natto (and chickpea natto) a couple of times, but it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a place to purchase chickpea natto yet as a soy-alternative, but my hopes are high! As for a replacement for soy sauce or tamari, coconut aminos do the trick!

Have you tasted natto? Have you tried to make it?

Additional Reading:

  1. Estrogenic foods, such as flax (another popular “health food”!) and soy can trigger precancerous breasts! 1.a.
  2. A thorough list of scientific literature demonstrating adverse effects of isoflavones (phytoestrogens found in soy): 2.a.
  3. Dangers of soy formula and alternatives to it: 3.a.

Diane Stanislowski is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public.

She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and three children and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.