Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.


Adaptogenic Chai Tea

 

Supporting our nervous system during times of stress and overwhelm is so important as a part of our self-care routine. The adrenal glands are a major part of your body's stress response, both to physical and emotional stressors. Because the adrenals have such an important part to play, it is crucial to give them extra support to stay healthy physically and mentally.

There are many ways to support the adrenals and the entire nervous system, including plenty of sleep, a nutrient-dense diet, outdoor exercise and a mindful stress-management practice. In addition to these lifestyle habits, giving yourself extra nourishment with herbal remedies is also a wonderful way to take care of yourself when under stress. There are a group of herbs, known as adaptogens, that help balance your body's stress response and adapt as needed to stay in balance. Adaptogens not only help to balance stress hormones, but they are also known to promote sleep, improve energy levels and even boost immune function. This herbal decoction takes some of my favorite adaptogenic herbs--ashwagandha, eleuthero, astragalus, and licorice--and combines them with warming, delicious spices found in many Indian chai tea blends, all without any caffeine. I like to keep a mixture of the herbs on hand so I can brew up a batch of chai whenever I need a little extra herbal support.

Adaptogenic Chai Tea (Caffeine-Free)

Serves: 2-3

Prep time: 15-30 minutes 

Ingredients:

  • 2-inch fresh ginger root, sliced (or 1 Tbs chopped, dried ginger)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, 2-3" long each
  • 8 star anise pods
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 tbsp dried ashwagandha root
  • 2 tbsp dried eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) root
  • 2 tbsp dried astragalus root--can be cut and sifted or in slices
  • 1 tbsp licorice root
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves 
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 quarts filtered water
  • To serve: Honey and heavy cream or coconut milk to taste

Directions

1. Place all herbs in a medium-sized sauce pan.

2. Add the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

3. Let the herbs simmer for 15-30 minutes to infuse as much of the herbal constituents into the tea as possible. Feel free to simmer for longer if you prefer a stronger, more flavorful tea. 

Laura Poe is a Registered Dietitian and traditional foods instructor. She homesteads in Wisconsin where she regular contributes to Edible Madison. Connect with Laura at Laura Poe, RD, for private practice appointments (distance consults available), upcoming classes, newsletter subscriptions, and more. Her nutrient-dense recipes can be found on Laura’s blog, Brine & Broth, and you can see what she has been cooking and creating on her Instagram @brineandbroth. Read all of Laura’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Adaptogenic Spiced Golden Milk for Natural Sleep Support

milk

“Sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Years ago, when I was a Transcendental Meditation teacher, the movement introduced the ancient Ayurvedic way of promoting good health to its members. I particularly loved having warm oil drizzled on my forehead before or after a massage but I haven’t had that in years. There is one practice that I have kept up with. It’s a spicy sweet warm milk beverage that I drink at bedtime and it helps me sleep. Warm milk sweetened with honey (leche caliente con miel) has been touted for a long time as a way to help people sleep better. The problem for me is that milk makes me phlegm-y so I usually stay away from it. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to cow’s milk these days. There are nut “milks” and, of course, goat’s milk. I like making my beverage with soy milk the way ayurvedic practitioners make it. This recipe features nutmeg to relax you and ashwagandha to support your immune system.

This recipe makes one cup and everything is “to taste”. If you think any of the amounts might be too much for you simply put in a little to start, taste and add more until you get the flavor you like. Also, none of the ingredients are mandatory. If you can’t find ashawaganda or don’t like one of the spices go ahead and leave it out.

Ingredient:

  • 1 cup whole cow or goat’s milk or unsweetened nut milk (such as hemp, almond, or cashew) or soy milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ashwagandha
  • 2 pinches of ground cardamom
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • A little bit of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (coconut oil works well, too)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey

Directions:

Add everything except honey to a saucepan and heat it to just below a simmer over low heat. Whisk to incorporate any clumps. Add ghee or coconut oil and continue to warm until it’s melted. Don’t let it boil. Remove from heat and stir in the honey, off heat (cooking honey destroys its healing properties). Pour into a mug and drink warm. Sweet dreams!

Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Poison Ivy: Identification, Eradication, and Treatment

Probably the most unwanted weed, poison ivy affects more than 350,000 people annually in the United States. Farmers, gardeners, and people who have even any plot of land, both rural and urban, are most likely faced with the problem of eradicating this harmful weed.

Despite its name, poison ivy is not a member of the ivy family (Hedera) but rather a member of the Anacardiaceae plant family, also known as the cashew or sumac family. Believe it or not, it’s actually a relative of cashews, pistachios, and mangoes. This glossy perennial can spread by seeds transmitted by birds, or by producing shoots from its extensive under-ground stems. Poison ivy grows on sandy, stony, or rocky shores, and sprouts in thickets, in clearings, and along the borders of woods and roadsides.

All parts of the poison ivy plant, including the roots, contain the poisonous resin urushiol. Contact with any broken part of the plant, or simply touching the plant, may cause a reaction. Pet fur can also transmit the sap, though the pets themselves are not affected. Urushiol can remain active for several years, on many surfaces and therefore is present on dry leaves and branches of the plant.

Poison ivy greatly benefits from increased carbon dioxide in the air: higher Co, levels make the plant, Digger, and more harmful.

Description and Range

Newfoundland is the only province in Canada where poison ivy is absent. Illustration by Mary Peterson

Poison ivy can be found in every province of Canada except Newfoundland. It can grow as a shrub, climbing vine, or ground cover, and the branches of older vines can even be mistaken for tree limbs. The character of growth varies according to location and type. Western poison ivy (Toxicodendron Rydbergii) usually grows as an erect shrub, while Eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) grows as climbing or trailing vine. As the names suggest, "Western poison ivy" predominates in Western Canada, while "Eastern Poison ivy" predominates in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

The leaves of poison ivy grow in clusters of three, with the middle leaflet being on a much larger stalk. The leaflet edges can be smooth or toothed and can vary on the same stem or plant. They are always pointed and alternate, and when newly unfolded are reddish to bronzy green. They are deciduous, and become an orange-red to wine-red in autumn. The stems are woody, and when climbing on the trunk of a tree develop aerial rootlets.

From May to July the plant produces small erect greenish-white flowers that are followed by greyish-white berry-like fruits in clusters from August to November. The fruits last throughout the winter and are commonly consumed by birds. Many mammals, including bears, moose, foxes, deer, rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks, muskrats, woodrats, and mice, also consume the leaves, stems, and fruit.

 Identification

It's important to know how to identify poison ivy in all seasons. Illustration by Sam Feldman

Identification is very important and is here separate from the description so as to highlight the telltale signs and combinations of signs that are easy to remember and help identify the plant rather than describe it. Four characteristics are sufficient to identify poison ivy in most situations: (a) clusters of three leaflets, (b) alternate leaf arrangement, (c) lack of thorns, and (d) separate stems connected to the main vine for each group of three leaflets.

Another quite distinguished characteristic is the asymmetry of individual leaves and the varieties of smooth, toothed, and lobed leaf edges on the same branch or plant.

There are also various easy to remember mnemonic rhymes that help identify poison ivy:

Leaves of three, let it be is the best known and most useful cautionary rhyme. It applies to poison oak as well as to poison ivy. However, some other innocuous plants have similar leaves. Other rhymes include: Hairy vine, no friend of mine; Berries white, run in fright; and Berries white, danger in sight.

 Eradication

There are several ways of removing poison ivy. Illustration by Paul Anderson

There are several ways of removing poison ivy.

Carefully dig the plant out. In order for this method to be effective, the plant must be removed fully with the roots, as any piece of root or stem can produce a new plant. Make sure to wear protective clothing and cover all bare skin and face while digging and handling the plant. Because poison ivy easily spreads from plant fragments, it is best to dispose of it in a plastic bag. Caution! Do not attempt to burn the plant, as this releases urushiol into the air and can affect the lungs! The place could then be treated with herbicide. Frequent tilling of the soil can also help reduce the ability for the plant to produce new shoots.

Cover and weight. Another mechanical way of eliminating poison ivy is to cover it with some material that does not let light through and put some weight on top. This method may not always work but does not require to come in contact with the plant.

Herbicides. It is also common to use herbicides to eliminate poison ivy. Herbicides that contain triclopyr will effectively work on poison ivy. Caution! Some herbicides made to treat poison ivy may contain glyphosate. Recent studies have shown that glyphosate likely causes severe health problems! Closely following the directions on the package and spray herbicides directly on the leaves of the plant. Though grasses and conifers are tolerant of Triclopyr, be careful when applying near broadleaf plants. If the poison ivy is growing up a tree trunk, be careful not to spray the bark as this may damage the tree.

Homemade leaf spray. If you don’t want to use chemicals there is also a natural way of treating poison ivy. An easy homemade herbicide can be made by mixing three pounds of salt, a gallon of water, and a quarter-cup of dish soap. The resulting homemade herbicide should be sprayed directly on the leaves of the plant. It is best to use it on a clear day so that it could do its job before it could be washed away by rain. Frequently apply this solution until the plant is fully eliminated.

How to Prevent and Cure Poison Ivy Rashes

As everyone knows, poison ivy can cause a painful rash. Statistics indicate that 85 percent of Canada’s population has an allergic reaction to poison ivy. The remaining 15 percent may not respond to poison ivy on the first encounter. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to poison ivy appear approximately 24 to 48 hours after contact with plant. After this, lesions may appear: Inflammation, swelling, and blistering. Symptoms may be more severe in people who have had a significant allergic reaction to poison ivy in the past.

The first thing to do if you have come in contact with poison ivy is to wash your hands. Recent researches have shown that urushiol on skin could be fully eliminated if washed properly within 2 to 8 hours of exposure (the sooner the better). This is done best by applying alcohol and thoroughly washing the hands with soap and constantly rubbing with a sponge or cloth. Hot water should not be used, as it causes the pores in the skin to open up and admit the oils from the plant. Be sure to wash the elbow and between the fingers, this is the places where poison ivy rashes commonly occur. It is best to wash three times.

If the rashes have already appeared, there are several methods to cure them listed below.

There are a variety of natural ways to treat the painful poison ivy rash. Illustration by Paul Anderson

Calamine lotion: Calamine is a safe, cheap, and easy to get, over-the-counter remedy. It was approved by the FDA as effective for treating poison ivy symptoms.

Using wet compress or soaking in cool water: A safe method recommended by the FDA.

Burrows Solution: Burrows solution is an over-the-counter remedy approved by the FDA as effective for treating poison ivy symptoms.

Jewel Weed: A mash made from the thick stems of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) can effectively treat poison ivy symptoms.

Baths with: Finely ground Oatmeal or Epsom salt: Baths soaked with oatmeal or Epsom salt are an effective remedy to treat poison ivy symptoms.

Banana Peel: The “meat” on the inside of the banana peel quickly relieves itching and is a remedy for poison ivy symptoms. Though the urushiol should be first washed away with soap or alcohol in order for this method to be effective. Apply this remedy two to three times a day for a week.

Mint Flavored Toothpaste: Apply on the rash, let dry and then wash away with water. This should be done three to two times daily until the rash disappears.

Aloe Vera: Apply on the rash, let dry and then wash away with water. Repeat several times daily.

Baking Soda: Place a cotton gauze soaked in a mixture of baking soda and water on the rash and wait fifteen minutes. Clean with water. Repeat three to four times daily for a week.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Place a cotton gauze soaked in a mixture of two tablespoons vinegar to one cup water on the rash and wait fifteen minutes. Clean with water. Repeat two to three times daily for a week.

Oils: Most oils are effective in treating poison ivy rashes. They should be applied three times daily for a week.

Michael Feldmann is a farmer and writer in Oklahoma, who studies agriculture and has worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers around the country. His writing has been published in Acres USA, Rural Heritage, Farming magazine, Farmers Weekly, Permaculture magazine, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and as a column in Poultry World. Read all of Michael’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Lavender Essential Oil for Body and Mind

This post is published in memory of Wendy Akin, longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor and Texas gardener, who knew the value of living as both learner and teacher.

Lavender might be the most useful of all the essential oils, and everybody should have at least a small bottle. Among the most frequent uses for lavender are: treatment for headache, calming the spirit, soothing burns, and, very important, neutralizing venom from insect bites. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be applied undiluted to the skin.

For stress. Lavender oil is lovely in the bath, whether mixed with sea salts or simply as a few drops in a warm tub bath. It’s calming, relieves stress and anxiety, and is helpful for insomnia and exhaustion.

For headaches of all kinds. Lavender can offer relief. Especially for tension headache, put just a drop on a ring finger (your weakest finger), rub against the opposing ring finger and then massage the temples in a circular manner where you feel the pulse.

For mosquito bites, bee or wasp stings and spider bites, and scorpion stings. Apply lavender oil as quickly as possible. Apply it generously! When I was bitten by a Black Widow spider, I ran for the bathroom, opened a bottle and literally doused my hand in it.  Of course, in this particular case, you would be advised to seek a physician’s help, especially if the bitten person is a child, older or has a weakened immune system.

In my case, the bite never swelled or broke open as others had. Even if you discover a bite when it begins to swell, keep applying crops of lavender in hopes that you did catch it in time.

For skin care. Lavender helps to clear up blemishes. Lavender in hand and body creams and soaps nourishes and soothes the skin. For sunburns or oven burns — any burn — lavender helps the skin to heal. It is used in burn clinics for serious burns, but that should be left to a medical professional.

Where to Find Lavender Essential Oil I buy lavender 40/42 for everyday use. My oil comes from an area south of Sault in central Provence in France, and this is dependable oil. It is a blend from multiple fields, similar to a blended wine.

Expect to pay about $40 to $45 per pound for this oil, and expect a minimum order policy from the better suppliers.

One caution when selecting any essential oil: If it sounds too good to be true, it is! You won’t want to purchase oils from multi-level marketing or “pyramid” companies.

Two vendors that I trust and that have fair prices are Rainbow Meadow, Inc., and New Direction Aromatics. Lavender and eucalyptus oils are rather common, and I’ve been satisfied with those oils from Bulk Apothecary and The Chemistry Store. You may find other essential oil vendors you like very well; there are many more today than were around 20 years ago.

Note that the more reputable vendors of essential oils do offer a Certificate of Analysis, which gives a summary of a Gas Chromatography, a test to ascertain the purity of the oil.

A Word of Caution

Do not put any essential oil in your mouth or inside your nose unless specifically advised by a knowledgeable practitioner. Most essential oils are for external use only.

References

Guitteny, M. (1996). Lavender. Societe Agar; Lawless, J. (1995). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Element Books; Maria, D. (2000). Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions. Storey Publishing; Whitton, S. (1995). Essential Oils and Essences. Apple Press; Worwood, V.A. (1991). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. New World Library.

Wendy Akin was a lifelong learner and teacher, who was happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy: BPA

woman
Photo by Unsplash/Bethany Beck

Being pregnant seems to lead to a lot of restrictions, from what we put in our bodies to what we surround ourselves with. Sometimes reading the plethora of online lists of things to watch out for during pregnancy can be incredibly overwhelming. It's important that we learn to prioritize the things that are most potentially harmful for us and our babies so we don't become overly stressed. To that end, I'm writing a series of posts on what I consider the five most important chemicals to avoid during pregnancy. The first of those is bisphenol-A or BPA, an endocrine disruptor found in plastics and canned food linings. 

What is BPA?

I’ve already written fairly extensively about avoiding BPA here as well as in my guest blog on Care2, but I believe this is the No. 1 most important chemical to eliminate from your body before, during and after pregnancy. BPA (bisphenol-A) is a potent estrogen mimicker, meaning it can disrupt our bodies’ vital endocrine systems, damaging the reproductive system, causing low sperm counts, cancers and more. Our endocrine systems help control our hormones, which are crucial to the healthy development of babies. Because it's extremely ubiquitous, nearly all of us are exposed to at least some level of BPA. But research shows that even small amounts of BPA can damage fetal development. And babies are often highly exposed to this chemical after birth, because it is found in #7 plastics, which are commonly used to make bottles and sippy cups, as well as the liners of infant formula cans.

You can find numerous studies to associate BPA exposure with a variety of developmental problems. A recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that early exposure to BPA created results similar to developmental exposure to mercury — adult fish that had been exposed to even tiny amounts of BPA as embryos has learning and memory problems, and experienced profound behavioral changes not only immediately after hatching, but also in adulthood. The scientist who conducted the study, Daniel Weber, said, “What was amazing is that exposure only happened at the embryonic stage, but somehow the wiring in the brain had been permanently altered by it.” 

Another recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured BPA levels in the urine of mothers at various times in their pregnancy and found that the mothers with higher BPA levels during pregnancy tended to have 3-year-old girls with more anxious and depressed behavior, as reported by Today. The article also quotes Shanna Swan, a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who says the study supports a growing body of evidence that BPA can affect brain development in the womb.

How to Avoid BPA

Do not drink beverages from or store food in plastic containers, in particular #7 plastic (to be safe, I avoid all plastic food storage and beverage containers). Do not eat canned foods. Nearly all canned foods contain high levels of BPA in the lining. Choose foods stored in glass jars instead. (Eden Foods is one of the only brands that has BPA-free canned food.) After your baby is born, do not use plastic bottles or sippy cups (opt instead for glass or stainless steel like these from Klean Kanteen — even BPA-free plastic can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, research has found). And do not feed babies canned infant formula. If you are unable to breast feed, choose dry-pack formula containers instead.

Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy: Retinol

family
Photo by Unsplash/Laercio Cavalcanti

As we pregnant women keep in mind what is entering our babies' bodies through our mouths and avoiding alcohol, processed foods, mercury in fish and food additives, we should also keep in mind what could be entering our babies' bodies through our skin. When we slather creams, lotions, moisturizers and sunscreens onto our bodies, they are absorbed into our bodies via our largest organ, where they are able to impact developing babies. In the July/August issue of Natural Home & Garden, there is a hefty, 8-page feature on healthy skin care products. Not regulated well by the federal government, laws restricting what skin-care companies can put into their products are virtually nonexistent, so it is truly up to us to become educated consumers when it comes to what we put on our bodies and to learn what chemicals to avoid during pregnancy.

This is more crucial than ever if we're pregnant, as levels of chemicals that can be somewhat hazardous to adults can wreak greater havoc on developing systems.  As doctor Debra Jaliman says on her blog on WebMD, "I can't understand why warnings for pregnant women are not on more skin care products." While I would recommend looking at the labels on your skin care products and avoiding anything potentially hazardous (using the current Natural Home & Garden article, on newsstands now, or the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database as a starting point), one of the most important ingredients to avoid is retinol. A vitamin A derivative that encourages skin to regenerate, retinol is in a wide array of skin-care products, particularly those touted as "anti-aging." Because retinol encourages cell regeneration, it can encourage skin to "renew" itself, helping it appear younger. However, that new skin is more sensitive to sun damage, and can actually increase risk of sun damage and skin cancer when used in daytime products. Nonetheless, the desire to slap "anti-aging" on the packaging has led more and more skin-care products to contain retinol. Some studies have found that retinoids (the class of vitamin A derivatives retinol is part of) in high doses can be harmful to unborn children. Oral retinoids such as isotretinoin (in the acne treatment Accutane) are known to cause birth defects.

Found in foundations, lipsticks, sunscreens and cleansers, retinol in daytime products will "actually make skin age faster because it is more susceptible to the sun, no matter the amount of SPF protection promised on the foundation or sunscreen," Jaliman writes. Retinol is particularly not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, which includes ALL products, even those intended for use at night. Check your sunscreen! Many sunscreens contain retinol, which is a particularly hazardous use of the additive because exposure to the sun helps the product break down more quickly.  

If you are pregnant and you have been using skin-care products with retinol, don't panic. No studies have definitively linked topical use of retinol to birth defects or harm to unborn infants. To be on the safe side, though, avoid skin-care products with this ingredient. Retinoids can be listed as a variety of names on labels. Watch out for these: Differin (adapelene), retin-A, renova, tretinoin, retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, tazorac and avage, tazarotene. You can read more on this subject on the BabyCenter website. 

How and Why to Support Beneficial Bacteria During Pregnancy and Beyond

woman
Photo by Unsplash/Camylla Battani

In the last decades, our knowledge regarding the miracle of creating life has advanced with leaps and bounds. We have learned so much about how the baby grows, the different developmental stages and what is necessary for a healthy baby.

Until quite recently, scientists believed that the uterus was a perfectly sterile environment, where the baby was safe from infections or other detrimental exposures. Natural birth was supposedly the first contact with bacteria and other blessings of the outside world.

There is no doubt that passing through the birth canal seeds the baby with precious beneficial bacteria from the mother, a critical event that research has found to play a major role in the short- and long-term health of the baby. The excellent documentary Microbirth is a testimony to this radical, yet entirely science-based truth.

Reproductive System Bacterial Communities

But now we have gone even further. Studies have found that the uterus is not the perfectly sterile and safe haven that we thought it was. In fact, both the uterus and the placenta (the organs most closely and intimately related to the baby) are now confirmed to harbor their own unique microbial communities, which are decisively different from microbes in other maternal organs, like the vagina or the gut.

The type of bacteria dominating these critical (for the baby and pregnancy) organs seems to influence the risk for pregnancy complications; when potential pathogens are present, there is higher risk for preterm birth and conditions such as preeclampsia.

Therefore, we need to do our best to ensure that the symbiotic bacteria of mothers-to-be are characterized by health-giving, beneficial strains, not pathogenic ones.

What Does Oral Hygiene have to Do with Healthy Pregnancy?

Another ground-breaking scientific finding is that the placental and uterine bacteria seem to be more similar to the bacteria of the mouth, despite the considerable physical distance between them. Perhaps, this is why serious gum infection (periodontitis) has been linked to higher risk for labor complications, as have other types of serious infections as well.

These finding do not mean that the gut and vagina are not important for a healthy pregnancy and baby, just that they are not in the front row of interest anymore. It is important to remember that natural birth remains a major event in seeding a baby with beneficial bacteria and that gut and vaginal flora are closely related.

However, the new facts put an unexpected emphasis on the oral hygiene during pregnancy and also provide several ways to help pregnant women enrich their symbiotic bacteria with good guys.

Bacteria in Breast Milk

Finally, we have learned that breast milk is yet another source of bacteria for the newborn baby. The mammary gland is an additional, newly found bacterial home that inevitably donates bacteria to breastfed infants.

The mother´s weight and pregnancy weight gain are shown to be important factors affecting the kind of bacteria passed on to the baby. According to a study published in the journal Pediatric Research, the breast milk of mothers with higher Body Mass Index (BMI), usually indicating obesity or overweight, has more potentially pathogenic bacterial strains, such as Staphylococcus, Clostridium, Bacteroides and Akkermansia muciniphila and less beneficial strains, like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.

All these exciting scientific advances show us that seeding a baby with beneficial bacteria starts from the early stages of pregnancy, is reinforced during natural birth and hopefully with breastfeeding. It is a multi-step process that lasts several months and depends significantly on the mother´s diet and lifestyle.

Unfortunately, this is not a matter of simply taking a probiotic supplement, although this is a necessary step as well. In order to fully support the microbiome of pregnant women and new mothers, a more holistic and careful approach is necessary.

4 Ways to Help Beneficial Bacteria Thrive

1. Practice good oral hygiene. Because the mouth is a source of bacteria for the uterus and placenta, keeping oral bacteria happy and balanced is essential. Harsh, alcohol-based, flavored mouthwashes or hydrogen peroxide washes may give a refreshing feeling, but at the same time kill indiscriminately good and bad bacteria and irritate mouth tissues.

An excellent natural alternative is oil pulling (using a natural oil as a mouthwash), which supports beneficial mouth bacteria, while being an effective detox method. Organic sesame oil and cold pressed, virgin coconut oil are the best options, because they are loaded with gentle, natural antimicrobials and numerous health-giving substances. Needless to say that keeping teeth clean is also a fundamental part of a good oral hygiene.

2. Increase probiotics. If there is no history of gut dysbiosis, you can take extra shots of beneficial bacteria with naturally fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. The bacteria in these foods and drinks remain temporarily in the gut, encouraging the establishment of healthful microorganisms.

Alternatively, probiotic supplements rich in different Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species can also enrich the gut and vaginal flora with beneficial bacteria.

3. Limit antibiotics. Prescribed antibiotics inevitably mess up bacterial communities in the whole body, because they kill beneficial bacteria along with the bad. If you have to take antibiotics of any kind, make sure to replenish your good bacteria communities with fermented foods and drinks or by taking probiotic supplements at the same time until a week after the treatment is finished.

4. Pastured meat and dairy products. Unfortunately, the vast majority of animal products that are available come from industrially raised, confined animals, receiving large doses of antibiotic cocktails on a daily basis. Small quantities of these antibiotics are found in all types of animal products and, therefore, eating them can throw most bacterial communities out of balance.

It is much more sustainable, ethical and healthful to consume animal products coming from humanely raised, pastured animals. The products coming from such animals are of premium quality and superior nutritional value, while lacking harmful antibiotics and synthetic hormones.

References

The placenta harbors a unique microbiome. Science Translational Medicine. May 2014; 6(237):237ra65.

Probiotics and pregnancy. Current Diabetes Reports. January 2015; 15(1):567.

Microbiome of the placenta in pre-eclampsia supports the role of bacteria in the multifactorial cause of pre-eclampsia. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. May 2015; 41(5):662-9.

Exploring preterm birth as a polymicrobial disease: an overview of the uterine microbiome. Frontiers in Immunology. November 2014; 5:595.

Placental Microbiome and Its Role in Preterm Birth. Neoreviews. December 2014; 15(12):e537-e545.

The Placental Microbiome Varies in Association with Low Birth Weight in Full-Term Neonates. Nutrients. August 2015; 7(8):6924-37.

The perinatal microbiome and pregnancy: moving beyond the vaginal microbiome. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. March 2015; 5(6).

Collado MC, Laitinen K, Salminen S, Isolauri E. 2012. Maternal weight and excessive weight gain during pregnancy modify the immunomodulatory potential of breast milk. Pediatric Research. 72(1):77-85.


Eleni Roumeliotou is a fertility and pregnancy nutrition and lifestyle specialist. Through Primal Baby, she helps women from all over the world to restore their fertility naturally and have complication-free pregnancies and healthy babies. Find Eleni on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.






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