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Book Review: Cure Tooth Decay

It’s hard to start a review of this book because there is just SO MUCH to write about! I learned a lot from this book, and I highly, highly recommend it, even if you don’t have any issues with your teeth. There’s great advice about diet and oral hygiene: myths are busted, nutritional details are dissected, truths are discovered. It is not the most exciting or suspenseful read, but still well worth it.

Ramiel Nagel, the author, is not a nutritionist or a dentist or even a doctor, but his interest in curing and preventing tooth decay came about when his daughter suffered from multiple cavities and teeth rotting so badly they were turning black. From fear that she would lose many teeth, Ramiel began researching the works of Westin A. Price and Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions) for help. What he found he applied to himself and his family and he had such success in turning around their oral health that he passed on his newfound knowledge in his book.

Here are the biggest things I took away from this book:

  1. All grains contain an element known as phytic acid. Phytic acid is a snowflake-shaped molecule that acts as a sweeper arm, attaching itself to calcium, magnesium, and other essential vitamins and minerals in our body and literally sweeping them away so that we cannot absorb them. So even if your grains naturally contain good elements (or are fortified with them, which is a separate issue I’ll get to), they are not absorbed by our bodies because phytic acid steals them. Even the good elements floating around in our bodies are swept away by the cheeky phytic acid. Such a little swipper, that acid! This is the main reason why grains are really not good for us, despite what the grain industry tells us about how many good nutrients are in grains. Yes, the good stuff is in there, no doubt about it, but it our bodies can’t absorb it then it does us no good. Which brings me to my second biggest learning point…
  2. All the elements we consume are not going to serve us unless we can absorb them properly. This one is really fascinating to me. Did you know you can consume all the Vitamin A you want, all day long, but unless it is taken with Vitamin D it is not going to be absorbed? Too much Vitamin A without enough Vitamin D can actually be toxic! This is just one example of how vitamins and minerals need a symbiotic relationship in order to do their good thang for us. They cannot act alone – they need a buddy, a specific buddy, in order to be successful. Also, back to fortified foods – when we add vitamins and minerals to foods that don’t normally have them, our bodies don’t recognize them and don’t absorb them. This is also the case for a lot of vitamins and supplements – when they are not in food, a lot of the time our bodies just don’t understand what they’re getting so they don’t use them. Synthetic vitamins are often received as toxins to our bodies, which is why, Ramiel states, sometimes the odor or color of our urine can be a bit “off” after consuming a multi-vitamin. It’s not that all supplements are bad, but be sure to select one that is food-based, does not have any sugar added, and take in compliment with a rich diet of quality whole foods from which we should be getting the bulk of our vitamins and minerals anyway.
  3. Diet has as much to do with oral health as hygiene. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around the following point – tooth decay is not caused by sugar sitting on your teeth. Tooth decay is caused by sugar replacing the essential vitamins and minerals in our bodies that help our teeth. It is our bodies processing the sugar and using all our good stuff to process it, rather than sending good stuff to our teeth to make them healthy. In other words, when we have a good diet full of good, absorbable vitamins and minerals, our teeth are healthy and strong. When we miss out on those good vitamins and minerals because we’re consuming sugar (and grains), our teeth not only miss out on receiving good stuff but our bodies must also take good stuff that is already there in order to get the toxins out of our systems. When we consume bad stuff we’re hit with a double punch: first missing out on introducing new good stuff, second being robbed of the good stuff that’s already there. Crazy right?
  4. We’re doing oral hygiene all wrong. Brushing teeth is great for removing plaque… but it also pushes plaque up under the gum line. So does flossing – think about it. You’re using a little string to try to pull plaque from a tight space. You’ll get most of it, but the flossing action itself is literally pushing the plaque up to your gums. Ramiel Nagel outlines lots of oral hygiene techniques that serve us much better than the old-school brushing and flossing. I won’t go into the specifics (otherwise you have no incentive to read the book!) but the things I’m starting to try are oil pulling, oral irrigating (Water Pik) with salt water, and herbal powder treatments applied to the gums. Treating our gums well is most important – without a strong neck, the head is floppy. Without strong gums, even healthy teeth can be lost. Also, oral hygiene is not the “be all and end all” solution to oral health that we’ve been taught: “Cleaning teeth will change the environment of your month and it can help slow down the problem [of decay], but it does not stop the original cause of tooth decay.” Caring for your whole self, through a quality, balanced diet and managed self-care is essential to completing the holistic oral health picture. Definitely don’t stop cleaning your mouth! But re-thinking why we use the methods we use and how they are actually successful (or not) is a great step in the right direction.

The only thing I struggled with while reading this book is all the diary. We’re dairy-free right now but Ramiel Nagel recommends lots of raw, grass-fed dairy in order to get a big calcium boost and essential vitamins A and D. There are not a lot of diary-free alternatives given but there are some – diary-free folks are not completely left out of the picture which is really nice. I worry that we’re not able to get enough calcium from vegetables, since we have to consume a ton of calcium-rich veggies to get what we could get from a cup or two of raw milk and some butter. I really hope to get back to raw dairy later this year, if it seems like Kiddo1 can handle it, but until then I guess we’ll just have to really try to get enough veggies. A calcium supplement would be nice, but per #2 above we probably won’t be able to absorb much of it since it will have to be from a synthetic source that does not contain the casein and whey protein that we’re avoiding. (And yes, raw dairy is safe, not scary, contains way more good stuff than pastured, which removes the good and has to be fortified with vitamins… but I digress.)

Overall, this book gives me great hope for the future of our dental health. There are TONS of reviews out there from people who have taken on the Cure Tooth Decay protocol and have seen cavities harden over, dental pain disappear, and dentists who are shocked and amazed at the results from diet and hygiene changes. I’m slowly starting to implement some of these tools with my family – Kiddo1 and I have been taking fermented cod liver oil for a few weeks now and the occasional complaint from him about a sore tooth has gone away. Once he switches up his hygiene routine (it’s taking some convincing) I think he’ll be in even better shape.


Book Review: Long Way on a Little

Recently we changed our source for meat so we’re getting pastured-raised chicken, pork, and beef (and a duck, too!). The chicken was an easy switch, but the pork and beef were, admittedly, not so great. They were turning out kind of rubbery and gamey-tasting. Mr. Handsome said the beef tasted a little like lamb, which he thinks tastes like rotting beef. So there was room for improvement I guess.

I also didn’t understand a few things about our new meats. Why does this meat always come frozen? Why is it more expensive if the cows are just eating grass? Why isn’t it tasting as good as people say pastured animals taste?

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Luckily I bought this copy because the pages are already splattered with cooking grease!

Enter, “Long Way on a Little,” my meat savior. I got this book because I really enjoyed Shannon Hayes’s other book, “Radical Homemakers,” and I was interested in learning about reducing our meat expenses. The book did not disappoint! I have learned so much. And it was a super quick read.

Turns out there are very simple explanations for why pastured meat is sold frozen. There are much more complex reasons for why pastured meat is more expensive, including government subsidies of conventional meat production (and other types of farming). And the reason why my pastured meats weren’t tasting great is because I was cooking them wrong!

“Long Way on a Little” is packed full of recipes for all the parts of cows and pigs, as well as lamb and whole chickens and ducks (there’s also a great explanation on why farms sell chickens whole and why we should buy them whole!). I’ve learned about “super slow roasting” my meats as well.

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Super slow roasted chuck, the best roast I’ve ever tasted!

This photo is of a 7 bone chuck roast I scored from our food buying club (more on that in another post) that I roasted in the oven at 170 degrees (I later found out that my oven goes all the way down to 140 degrees if I use the warming feature, so I’ll be doing a lot of slow roasting now!). It took about three hours to cook up to 135 – the book also explains why lower internal temperatures are not only better for pastured meats but also way more safe than the same temperatures with conventional meat.

I’ve already made three recipes from this book and I can’t wait to try more. I’m very interested lately in finding ways to use the entire animal that we purchase. With whole chickens we’ve been making bone broth, but I’d love to start using the fat from the beef and pork cuts to make tallow and lard. Luckily the methods are outlined very clearly in this book, so I’m sure I’ll be making productive use of all those “leftovers” soon. I’ve got a bunch of fat leftover from the roast that is just sitting in the fridge waiting for me to render!

I love this book very much, I highly recommend it. The pork medallions recipe from this book is the one that Kiddo1 loved a few nights ago. So it even gets his stamp of approval!

The next book up for review is “Making Home” by Sharon Astyk.



Book Review: Radical Homemakers

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these! I have been reading since the last book review, I swear! Not as much as I’d like to, of course. Kiddo1 and I did have a reading contest last month. We raced each other – I read “The Book Thief” and he read “Divergent,” then we switched books. I finished “The Book Thief” first, but now he’s nearly done with the whole “Divergent” series and I haven’t even started the first book yet!

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My copy, which is quickly becoming worn!

In my defense, though, I’ve been distracted by homesteading-type books. This was the first one I read and let me tell you, if you need a motivator to start becoming a productive household, “Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes is probably a good place to start.

I was reading this book when I started writing again last week. I’m sure its influences are in the articulation of my goal. Shannon makes a very compelling argument for homemaking. I’m sure her thesis has appeared in my posts about my goal, so I won’t go into the details of why she thinks homemaking is a critical art that should be cultivated.

The fascinating part of her argument, to me, comes in the evolution of human thought that she points out. Our society has gone from being very home-centered, when accomplishment of domestic tasks really did influence ones very survival, to the industrial revolution and the beginning of abandoning the home, the rise of convenience appliances and foods alongside the rise of “housewife syndrome” in the 60’s, the shunning of domestic tasks with the first wave of feminism, and on and on. It’s funny how one thing, like how Darwin described the roles of women and men in evolution, could so greatly alter how the vast majority of people view the sexes. She has some really great history lessons like these all through the book. I find them so interesting!

Shannon also shares profiles of a bunch of families she has interviewed as part of her research. I love reading real stories about others who have started to blaze a trail to homemaking. This book kind of reminded me of Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, with its second half full of birth stories. That book was very inspirational to me in pursing natural childbirth, and so I find “Radical Homemakers” to be very inspirational in pursing my new goal!

Apparently people have found this book to be controversial. That opinion could be prompted by the author’s disdain for corporate culture. It could be her opinions on feminism or maybe even her interpretation of history, But I found myself nodding along with just about everything in this book so I didn’t find it too controversial! I found myself wanting to be friends with Shannon Hayes, so I can learn everything she knows! She does address some of the controversy in this interview, which I also found extremely interesting!

This is a great book if you’re at all pondering issues of how we got to this modern life, or if you have any interest in homemaking. Next time I’ll review another of Shannon Hayes’s books, “Long Way on a Little.”

Book Review: Breastfeeding Made Simple

PhotobucketBreastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers is by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC. This is the first breastfeeding book I’ve read by actual lactation consultants and, let me tell you, I can tell the difference! So much of what I thought I knew or what I have been told about breastfeeding was clarified or even dispelled by this book.

The authors explain information they’ve gathered into seven natural laws: things that are inherent in every breastfeeding baby, mother and, thus, the breastfeeding couple. What’s so great about this book is all the information about the baby’s perspective. Babies are hard-wired to breastfeed (that’s one of the “seven laws”) so they come with a whole set of instinctual movements and behaviors to facilitate breastfeeding. A touch on the chin will cause their mouth to open wide, a touch on their feet will cause them to push themselves up to the breast, etc. I’ve never read about these things in any other breastfeeding book, and they really can make or break some of those first sessions together! For example, if you’ve got baby’s feet pushed up against something and he or she keeps pushing out of position, that could get very frustrating if you didn’t know why!

Based on some of the baby instincts I read about, I started making just a small change to the way I held Baby2 when feeding her. Suddenly she went from eating five minutes at a time to at least 10, sometimes 15 minutes. I’m not sure if she’s getting more milk (hopefully she’s not just being less efficient!) but I feel better that she’s eating in longer stretches. All I changed was just to pull her belly in tighter to my chest. Her belly was always facing me but we weren’t really smushed together. Now if she slows down or stops eating, I just pull her close again and she gets back to business!

There were only a couple things I didn’t like; one, there were numerous mentions of babies needing to make several “stools” a day. That freaked me out because, at the time, I was in the midst of Baby’s first dry spell (she went five days without a poop!). It is unusual yet completely normal for breastfed babies to go longer between bowel movements (my pediatrician keeps reassuring me). I wish the authors would say that several stools a day is normal but as long as your baby is gaining weight and all other healthy indicators are present, breastfed babies can go up to two weeks without a poop. Baby2 now poops about once every other day (and it’s a whole lotta poop when she goes!).

Also, I think that, while each of the laws are explained in good detail, to a mother who is really struggling with breastfeeding it may seem like an over-simplification of sorts. The authors have an underlying theme that anyone can breastfeed, no matter what, which isn’t always the case. There are a couple ladies in my moms group who have seen half a dozen lactation consultants and nothing is working. So the authors’ assertion that simply obeying the natural laws will solve all their problems may be a little off the mark. I think these two moms I know would find this very frustrating.

But it is great that some of the standard mantras that doctors give nursing mothers are explained and usually clarified as untrue. For example, feeding every two to three hours doesn’t make sense, at least in the first few weeks because milk production is at its peak in the morning and slows at night (which is why so many babies cluster feed in the evenings). That sort of schedule also does nothing to help build supply in the first month, when baby should be eating as often as possible so that the breasts know how much milk they should make. Did you know that supply is generally set as of baby’s one-month birthday? And that babies will eat about the same amount of breast milk at six months of age that they ate at one month of age? I had no idea!

I only wish I had read this book while I was still pregnant, but it’s never too late to learn more about breastfeeding. I feel like I’ve been able to apply the knowledge I’ve taken in order to strengthen Baby2 and my breastfeeding relationship. I’ve been searching for the go-to breastfeeding book and I really feel like this one is it. Highly recommended!

Next review: Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin

Book Review: Petit Collage Deluxe Baby Book and Memory Box

PhotobucketSince the Humble Bumbles journal didn’t work out, I needed to find a replacement. I really wanted to buy a journal in a store so I could see it and judge it without having to buy it, even though I bought Humble Bumbles from a store and returned it anyway. Alas, I found the Petit Collage Deluxe Baby Book and Memory Box on Amazon after freaking out realizing that Humble Bumbles wasn’t a good fit. To my surprise, it not only arrived just before Baby2 was born but it is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Here’s why…

First, a recap what I’m looking for:

  • The journal needs to look nice, not too girly, not too baby. Gender-neutral is fine but a little girly without going over-the-top is nice, too.
  • Kiddo1’s baby book was formatted like a three-ring-binder, so I could add pages of pictures. It was also in a box so I could throw in other stuff like the hospital bracelet. This baby book needs to have some of that flexibility too.
  • The book can’t be religious, because Mr. Handsome and I aren’t religious and I feel like the book should definitely jive with our philosophical preferences (although that sounds way more heavy than it is, I think!).
  • Preferably only a year’s worth of pages to fill out, but it can go longer as long as the focus is the first year.
  • Also, there can’t be too much to fill out. I’d rather spend my time experiencing baby’s milestones than recording them!

Here’s what I love about this new journal, the Petit Collage Deluxe Baby Book and Memory Box:

  • It’s cute in an OMG-I’m-dying-from-the-cuteness way – super adorable baby bird motif that is not at all “too baby” but perfect for a baby! It could be gender-neutral but I think it leans to girly. Most importantly, it is not pastel pink, thank goodness!
  • PhotobucketThe book rests within a generously-sized box with a drawer to keep all the mementos. It comes with small and large vellum envelopes for giving precious objects a little extra protection. Like the vellum envelope in Humble Bumbles, these aren’t iron-clad containers, but within the protection of the box they just work just fine.
  • There is space for lots of pictures and the picture spots are thoughtfully placed. There’s even a piece of vellum between the month-by-month pages that have pictures facing each other (there’s only one page per month so the pictures could stick to each other without the vellum). There’s also enough room within the box’s drawer for a small photo album, if the picture count gets a little crazy.
  • This book is in no way religious, not even hinting at it. Fantastic.
  • The book only covers baby’s first year! So I don’t have to feel guilty about loosing track of keeping up with each birthday. Whew!
  • There aren’t too many blanks to fill in. Only a few “before baby” pages – one for mom, dad and a couple for the pregnancy. Then there’s a few birthday pages, a few “baby’s firsts” pages, pages for baby’s favorite things and then it’s on to the month-by-month section, with a page for every month containing a picture spot, height/weight and milestone blanks. In the back there are a couple pages for baby’s first birthday and a family tree.

I’m so in love with this journal right now that I can’t think of much I don’t like. One thing that jumps out at me is that, while there is a sheet of vellum between the months to protect the pictures, there isn’t a sheet between other opposing picture pages (baby’s first haircut and first bath pages face each other, for example). I can stick a piece of vellum in there myself, but it’d be nice if it was already attached. Oh, the price was a little steep, too; I found it on Amazon for $31 but suggested retail is $55! I don’t love this journal 55 dollars-worth.

Overall, a great find for blindly trusting the other Amazon reviewers!

Next Review: On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, MA and Robert Bucknam, MD

Book Review: Humble Bumbles Baby Journal

A good baby journal is a hard thing for me to find. I went to several stores to scope them out and I still didn’t get a home run on my first purchase, even though I tested this one out in the store. I have requirements to fulfill, just like I do for everything. I’m a hard one to please, what can I say?

Here are some of the things I am looking for in a journal:

  • The journal needs to look nice, not too girly, not too baby. Gender-neutral is fine but a little girly without going over-the-top is nice, too.
  • Kiddo1’s baby book was formatted like a three-ring-binder, so I could add pages of pictures. It was also in a box so I could throw in other stuff like the hospital bracelet. This baby book needs to have some of that flexibility too.
  • The book can’t be religious, because Mr. Handsome and I aren’t religious and I feel like the book should definitely jive with our philosophical preferences (although that sounds way more heavy than it is, I think!).
  • Preferably only a year’s worth of pages to fill out, but it can go longer as long as the focus is the first year.
  • Also, there can’t be too much to fill out. I’d rather spend my time experiencing baby’s milestones than recording them!

Sorry I didn’t get any inside shots while I had this!

After perusing the selections at several bookstores, I picked up The Humble Bumbles Baby Journal. Here are some things I like about Humble Bumbles:

  • No pastels! This book has a nice color scheme. It’s also gender-neutral, which wasn’t exactly a requirement for me, but I wouldn’t want the book to be too feminine either.
  • There’s a generous pocket for the trinkets that I would throw in Kiddo1’s box journal. However it is made of flimsy vellum paper and could tear easily. Three-dimensional objects won’t fit too well (you could get a flat hospital bracelet in there but not a little hat or sock or something).
  • There are appropriate blanks to fill out, but there aren’t too many and the blanks aren’t too long. There are only a couple pages that might be meant for pre-birth, which is great because I don’t want to focus too much on that either. It’s a book about the baby after all!
  • The attached growth chart. We always meant to keep one for Kiddo1, but I never thought to keep one on paper. As a child, mine was on a post in my basement. We never moved until I was in middle school. I knew we’d be moving a bit while Kiddo1 was growing (surprisingly enough, though, we’re only on our fourth place since he was born, if you count that apartment will lived in for the first month).

Things I don’t like:

  • The characters and the graphics in the book are a little too… cutesy. Not good cute, kind of cheesy cute. I could look past this because the book is for a baby, after all, but it’s for Mr. Handsome and me, too. Maybe more for us than for her, really.
  • There’s a page in each section for a picture, but it’s a small page. I would like more room for photo and memento space.
  • This book is a little too religious for my taste. The focus of the book is not religion per se, but there are quotes at the bottom of every other page and a good majority of them are bible quotes. There’s a little angel character that shows up now and then; again, not a focus, but it’s there.
  • This is a three-year journal, but the pages for years two and three are minimal, meant to be filled out at the little one’s birthdays. Kiddo1’s baby journal was like this and I never filled these pages out. I guess I had other things going on…

In the end, I couldn’t get over the religious tones of the book, so I ended up returning it and buying another. I was on the fence for awhile but ultimately I need something that suits my family preferences. Still, this would have been a fine book if I had to keep it. It’s good to know there are more options out there!

A note about options, though: it’s really hard to find baby journals at your typical Barnes & Noble-type bookstore. They had a very small section of books at two stores I visited in my area. Ultimately I wound up purchasing a journal at Amazon, sight-unseen. Perhaps a Babies-R-Us-type store would have more of a selection, but then I kind of doubt that too.

Next Review: Petit Collage Deluxe Baby Book and Memory Box

Book Review: Nursing Mother, Working Mother

One of the breastfeeding topics that is important to me is how to handle the delicate balancing act that is breastfeeding while working full time. This is something I struggled with last time and am determined to tackle this time around.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosThis book is fantastic! Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gale Pryor covers just the niche of this topic that I wanted to learn more about: overcoming the struggle of breastfeeding and working.

The first couple chapters are focused on what it means to be a working mom. Let’s face it, most of our offices are still dominated by men. A woman is rewarded at work by being as man-like as possible: there is an underlying “societal pressure to surrender or minimize motherhood.” Women in the office are taken (or perceived to be taken?) more seriously when we discount our roles as mothers, accept the long hours and over-commitments to our outside-the-home work and generally live two completely separate lives. Why? Is it not possible to succeed in the corporate world as both a woman and a mother? Is it not possible to schedule your pumping time and your going-home time as you would schedule a project review or staff meeting? I could go on about this for awhile, but the book does move on and so shall I.

What I appreciated about this book is not only the commentary about working mothers but also some breastfeeding science that can help with pumping success. For example, milk is most plentiful in the mornings. Being the analytical and scheduled person that I am, without this knowledge I would pump every 2.5 hours exactly. Now I know that maybe I should pump once at 9, at 11 and then at 2 before leaving at 4 to breastfeed at home.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosMs. Pryor gives this schedule to follow, which of course is a bit different for everyone. I will leave my baby at home with Mr. Handsome and drive 45 minutes to work, so I’ll probably pump three times at work rather than two. But I appreciate a broken-down baseline from which I can build my own plan.

There are lots of basic how-tos in the book as well. How to get started breastfeeding just after birth, troubleshoot problems like blocked ducts or mastitis, how to form a plan for returning to work (find a daycare, a place to pump at work, legal rights to pump at work, etc), the best breast pump features, storing milk and combating fatigue (relax while you’re feeding, skip unnecessary housework, trade something like cable tv for an occasional “maid cleaning).

The only thing I didn’t really like about this book is that not enough credit is given to the dads/partners. I realize that I am extremely, extremely, spoiled in that I have a husband that probably does three times the housework I do, stays home with the kids (two kids!) AND works a few nights a week at the restaurant. Not everyone has a partner who not only chips in but basically handles everything. Ms. Pryor seems to lump all partners into the typical “man role” of being the guy who needs to be constantly nagged in order to get him to simply put the seat down or pick up his underwear. Since she focuses so much on how working women are stereotyped, I find it odd that she turns around and does the same thing to working men.

All in all, though, this is a great book. If I had to pick just one book about breastfeeding, this would be it. Of course that’s because I need the emphasis on returning to work, but all the basic stuff is covered too. The parts about mothering in the workplace really sparked my inner feminist and made me think. I’m sure I’ll be picking this one up again as my maternity leave draws to a close.

Next Review: On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, MA and Robert Bucknam, MD