Bone Broth Revisited

You’ve likely heard various diet fads touting the incredible benefits of bone broth: a slow-cooked broth made with animal bones.  You can purchase jars of bone broth at most health food stores for anywhere from $9 to $20 a pint.  But do the physical benefits your body gets really merit that kind of expense?

If you have any farms near where you live, or even a decent farmers market, you can easily buy the materials to craft your own mineral and collagen-rich bone broth at home for under $10.  I generally make a big batch of it once a month or so in my 7-quart slow cooker, utilizing vegetable scraps that I’ve saved from cooking meals every night as well as dried mushrooms I had foraged over the summer, dried seaweed, and whatever tiny bits of fresh herbs are still poking their heads up above the snow in winter. 

Tossing medicinal mushrooms into my crock pot of bone broth

You can make bone broth any time of year, but winter is often the time our bodies need it the most; that time of year we are more sedentary, allowing our poor knees to suffer from lack of regular exercise and stuck indoors, catching whatever virus the kids brought home from school. 

If you can pick up some local beef bones or a locally-raised chicken to roast, you will be provided with enough bone, sinew, and fat to improve the functioning of your gut, give you healthier skin, and grease the cartilage in your joints.

I recommend buying local pasture-raised meats or bones as not only does in decrease the carbon footprint of the products you are about to eat but allowing the animals to forage on pasture is scientifically-proven to be better for both the animal and the person eating their meat, unlike feeding them on corn or soy like the larger commercial feedlots do.  100% Grass-fed meat is defined as an animal that was raised fully on pasture, eating their natural diet of grass and other plant materials found while foraging.  This is true for beef, lamb, or pork (although being a farmer, I would have to say God bless anyone who wants to raise their pigs solely on pasture.)

It’s important to note that chickens (and all poultry), on the other hand, are omnivores.  This is a critical distinction you ought to keep in mind when buying eggs, by the way—I personally think “vegetarian-fed” eggs are cruelty to the poor chickens. If you’ve ever watched chickens pecking around someone yard or field, you’ll notice them scratching up the earth and digging for insects.  Bugs aren’t vegetarian! The chickens require the extra protein in their diet found from insects and other “meats,” as soy stops their bodies from being able to properly assimilate the nutrients in the other grains found in normal poultry feed.  Buying pasture-raised chicken is going to result in the best tasting meat AND the most nutrient-dense bone broth from the remaining carcass.

Another benefit of making your own bone broth, especially if you use some nice big chunks of beef thigh or shank, is the bone marrow.  You don’t want to waste that nutritional powerhouse that comes free with the bones; bone marrow is incredibly rich brain food! Recent evidence suggests that eating and scavenging other predator’s kills for bone marrow is one of the things that caused new neurons to form in the human brain and allow hominids to develop the way we did.  Our brains got bigger and better at processing information, evolving us into the apex predator of the world.

When you make bone broth with a full chicken or turkey carcass, or even better, some kind of joint bones from a ruminant such as a cow or sheep, your resulting concoction will be extremely rich in collagen.  This is the substance your joints require to lubricate themselves.  No more knees cracking and creaking like bubble wrap when you take that flight of stairs!  It’s also a primary lubricant of skin cells, as you can probably deduce from the number of collagen-based face creams available in stores today.  You don’t have to be a beautician to appreciate having skin that stays soft and supple rather than dry or cracked. 

Finished bone broth ready to go into the freezer

The gut-healing benefits of bone broth are nothing to shy away from either.  I’ve helped several clients regain their gut health, heal recurring ulcers, and repair their microbiome utilizing homemade bone broth as a catalyst for change.  High quality bone broth drank a few times a week can act as a prebiotic to feed healthy gut bacteria, help reverse the effects of SIBO, and heal the walls of the gut lining that have been affected by IBS, Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative colitis

So, is bone broth “worth it?” In my opinion, absolutely!  I personally prefer to make my own rather than buy it in less-than adequate quantities at the store.  A small jar of bone broth from the store is only going to give you maybe two mugs full or be enough to add to a soup or stew.  If you make your own, however, you will provide yourself with enough to add to the water for boiling your pasta or rice, turn into an inflammation-fighting ramen soup, or drink as a hot breakfast on a cold winter morning.

Bone broth: warmth, comfort, and painkiller in a cup.

Fighting Cancer Naturally

As far as I can tell, I don’t have any more cancer. Yet.

I felt a lump on my neck a few months ago and decided to have it checked out at the doctor. They ended up doing an ultrasound of my thyroid gland, which led to a biopsy, which eventually led to a very concerning discussion with a surgeon and an endocrinologist about the 50/50 chance of the lump they found being cancerous.

A month and a surgery later, I am without half of my thyroid gland. And yes, the lump was cancer.

The GOOD news was that for whatever reason (I’m honestly thinking divine intervention at this point,) I found the lump really early and there was no sign of cancer anywhere around or near it. Even the surgeon was baffled by that; he said the lump itself had managed to attach itself to the muscle in my neck (which explains why I thought I felt it up much higher than it actually was) and yet NOT spread to the muscle tissue, lymph nodes, or other surrounding thyroid tissue. In other words, just the lump itself was cancer.

Check out my sexy scar

I’m taking this as a sign to take even better care of myself than I normally do, which as you know is pretty darn good. Because I still have half a thyroid gland that also has two teenie weenie lumps that the doctors are “keeping an eye on,” I have to be on a certain medication to make sure that half of my thyroid doesn’t grow larger (to compensate for the missing half) and thus cause the little lumps to grow into cancer. The main side effect of this medication is bone loss. Fun, right?

Anyway, I’m telling you all this to segue into the reasons why I have currently decided to watch and monitor the rest of my thyroid and surrounding areas, rather than freak out and have everything removed. I have explained before how important the lymphatic system is for the human body to function, so I am exceedingly reluctant to lose any portion of that. And I certainly don’t want to be without any thyroid gland. Losing that completely would ensure I had to remain on some form of medication for the rest of my life. So what am I going to do instead?

For now, I am on a small dose of animal-based TSH that I have to figure out the correct dosage of over the next few months, via blood tests and feeling in my body. I’ll either feel low down like crap or super hyper and energetic… but what I want to feel is right in between. I need to get another ultrasound on my glandular area in 6 months and again in a year to see whether any cancer is growing back.

My end goal, if possible, is to shrink or completely eliminate the remaining tiny threatening lumps on my existing thyroid half. Can it be done? I think so. Let me tell you my plans:

Ever since Covid started, I have been taking mushroom supplements to assist my body in achieving optimal immune function. I started really getting into mushroom hunting in 2020 in addition to my regular foraging, so I have been able to find and properly identify quite a few medicinal mushrooms. Reishi (ganoderma tsugae,) Turkey Tail (trametes versicolor,) birch polypore (fomitopsis betulina,) Hen-of-the-woods (maitake,) and Chaga mushroom tinctures have been going for months at my house. I recently got a Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushroom growing kit for the holidays as well, and just harvested my first chunks of that to tincture.

All of my tinctures are made with 100 proof vodka and sit for a minimum of 6-8 weeks. Then I strain them and re-use the mushroom chunks in twice that amount of water, simmering them slowly for 2 – 3 hours. Then I strain that material again and combine the two liquids to form a double-decocted mushroom tincture. While the alcohol extracts most of the vital constituents from the mushroom, the water decoction extracts the polyphenols, vital nutrients mainly found only in plant materials. This technique ensures you get the most out of your foraged mushrooms, and creates a tincture that can last for many years if unused.

This past year I made all those mushrooms into medicinal tinctures myself, mainly from wild foraged sources. Turkey Tail and Maitake are of particular interest to me, given their being known for their anti-cancer benefits. At any rate, I now have a big 4-ounce sized tincture bottle filled with a combination of these tinctures. I take several dropperfuls daily in addition to my other supporting supplements.

Another measure I have taken is (of course) with my diet. The first step to helping fight cancer is to seriously reduce my sugar intake, especially processed sugars. I’m already a pretty big proponent of not eating highly processed foods, and I hardly ever drink soda or eat candy. I have also severely reduced my alcohol intake, which is making me feel better for a lot of reasons. But alcohol has always been bad for those fighting cancer, since it breaks down in your body into acetaldehyde, which prevents your body from repairing damage.

So I have to watch what I eat even more closely (no cake or cookies unless I bake with monkfruit or some other alternative sweetener.) And I get to eat more cheese and dark leafy greens like collards and kale, because the bone loss side effect from my meds requires me to increase my food-based calcium intake as much as possible. You won’t hear me complaining about “having” to eat more cheese…

I also am utilizing a special meditation technique taught to me by my very good friend Bryan Redfield, which basically help me visualize a special cancer-killing light shining directly on the part of my neck where the thyroid and surrounding tissue reside. Bryan has helped me deal with and think through a ton of emotional baggage surrounding this whole ordeal, and I am very grateful for his knowledge and support.

So far, those are my main steps for fighting this potential cancer. I’m also exercising and trying to maintain optimal physical health (fairly easy during farming season, but harder in the winter months as you know.) I’d love to hear from you (comment on this post) if you know of a certain food, drink, or herb that fights cancer as well. I’m determined to beat this thing out of existence! So I’ll take all the help I can get.

Food IS Medicine!

Before herbs, before drugs/pharmaceutical medicine, before therapy, what is there in this world that you put into your body EVERY SINGLE DAY to run you, heal you, activate you, motivate you, energize you, or even just to survive on? FOOD.

It is really difficult to get this message through to people for some reason. I actually might present a class on it, if I can muster enough resources.

The food that you eat every day is almost entirely what determines your energy levels, ailments, health, mental state, happiness, desire, life. It makes sense to me that since the health and well-being of my entire body is so dependent upon what I put into it, I should pay attention to the quality of that fuel.

I’m not shaming you for drinking booze occasionally, or eating some chips or cookies once in awhile. We all have weaknesses, and eating or drinking something we know is bad for us once in awhile is a human right. Many of us regret doing so later (diarrhea, nausea, hangover) but it was fun while it lasted. But the things you ingest regularly matter more than you can imagine. Cookies and cocoa puffs are not meant to be everyday fare.

You’ve probably heard about your microbiome, that symbiotic colony of bacteria inside your body that is more than partially running your organ systems, like tiny little engineers. This is related to the Gut-Brain connection, which basically means the bacteria in your gut affect your mood and behavior. Remember that episode of Futurama where Fry eats a gas station sandwich and suddenly his body is colonized by generations of tape worms that clean out his organs, increase his intelligence, and make him healthier? That’s not how it actually works with parasites (much the opposite,) but your gut’s natural microbiota DO have a similar effect on your system.

Which is a healthier food choice: a salad or a box of Oreos? “Duh!” you say. “I’m not an idiot!” But which one do you eat more frequently? Which one, honestly, would you rather have?

I don’t eat Oreos anymore. I refuse to support Nabisco because their demand for palm oil has decimated the only forests in the world that are the last remaining natural habitat for orangutans. But I digress. Cheap processed food is made to trigger the happy centers of your brain. But it doesn’t run your body the same way a salad or a baked potato would.

This is one of the best winter time meals ever, no matter where you bought the potato

Every human body has different needs; this post isn’t meant to be taken as a knock on you or your dietary restrictions, specific condition, or income level. I’ve certainly been in a spot in life (See: How to Eat When You’re Poor) where I couldn’t afford to eat great quality food, especially not organic vegetables. BUT I DID know that vegetables and fruits were the best thing I could put into my body, and I did my grocery shopping with that in mind. Are organic potatoes and collard greens better for you than conventionally-grown? Abso-freaking lutely. But are the regular cheap veggies still better than eating Top Ramen and Cheetos for dinner? DUH. You can go shopping at Aldi and CHOOSE to buy a bunch of veggies, meat, and cheese instead of shopping in the chips aisle. It should be well-known by this point that I agree with the theory that Processed Foods Are Bad.

When you (hopefully) reach a point in your life where you can do some of your weekly shopping at the local farmer’s market instead of the grocery store, you should be excited as hell because THOSE veggies are going to be fresher than anything you could possibly get at the local store.

Maybe you can even grow a little garden yourself? Even if you think a garden is too hard, ANYONE can grow a tomato plant in a pot on their front step. If you can’t grow a tomato plant, I pity whatever gods gave you the blackest thumbs in humanity. Nothing tastes better than a tomato you grew and picked yourself!

As far as protein goes, you know damned well I want you to eat eggs. Which eggs you buy and eat DOES make a difference, which you can see just from cracking some open. While I will say again that buying the cheap 80 cents a dozen eggs from Wal-Mart is still healthier for you than eating a can of Chef Boyardee for dinner, if you are at a point where you can choose where to buy your eggs, please, PLEASE buy from a local farm or at least buy Free-range eggs. Quick note: “Vegetarian Fed” chickens are probably freaking miserable. Chickens naturally eat bugs and sometimes even eat mice and small snakes. They are omnivores; anyone who forces them to only eat vegetable sources is cruel.

Our eggs frying in bacon fat in February

Buying your meat from sources LOCAL TO YOU is incredibly good for the environment, and it helps the farmers in/near your community rather than some asshat who clear cut half the Brazilian rainforest for his crappy beef cows. We raise meat birds on a very small scale here, mostly for our own consumption. But there’s always a meat vendor at the farmer’s market selling great quality meats. I like to know that I can go pat the cow on the head and see it happily eating grass a few weeks before I eat some of it.

I’m going to stop ranting now, but I want to make it clear to anyone struggling to eat healthfully, lose weight, or stop feeling so crappy in your tummy: EAT REAL FOOD. If it was grown as a plant of some sort or produced by an animal somehow, it’s better for you than Tasty Cakes and Doritos. If you have specific questions or a different situation and would like help figuring out the best dietary changes or herbal additions for YOU, please remember that I do Consultations, in-person and online.

Happy eating!

Get out and Move!

This time of year, people are normally starting their new diets and worrying about the pounds they packed on from the sweets they ate over the holidays. You might think joining a gym is the answer to your problems, and sucking down veggie juice and smoothies will trim your waist down. It could work…

But I don’t think so. Wanna know why? Because that shit is BORING.

Who wants to ride a bicycle in place, or walk on a treadmill for an hour while staring at the ass of the person in front of you? Sure, a smoothie is delicious, and some juice can be too… but they also frequently shoot your blood sugar through the roof and cause your energy to crash later.

If you don’t feel good about yourself, you’ll be stressed. And while stress can make you lose weight sometimes, it’s really not the healthiest way to do so. You want to know what helps more than anything else?

GETTING YOUR BUTT OUTDOORS.

We just took a nice 3.5 mile hike yesterday through a very well-traveled path that was wide enough for people to go mountain biking on. I used to do this when the kids were little too; I either had them in a baby backpack or we simply took shorter hikes. The older the kids get, the longer and harder hikes we take. Getting outdoors in the fresh air, especially if you can find a place surrounded by forest on all sides is good for your heart, soul, AND waistline.

A huge cause of stress right now is Covid 19. You know where you have the least likely chance of catching it? Out in the damned woods with no one else around.

Important factors for keeping your immune system in good health, especially in regards to fighting any kind of viral infection like the Rona or the Flu, include moving your body and getting enough Vitamin D. Did you know that your lymphatic system (you know those little knobbly bits under your chin/neck that hurt when you feel sick? They’re all over your body, known as your lymphatic system) does NOT have its own pump to move fluid through your body? The heart and breathing in general can only move you so much. What really helps get that nasty, stagnant lymph fluid the heck out of your body is MOVEMENT. And when you do that movement outdoors, you often get the added benefit of a little Vitamin D dose from the sun. Eating lots of vegetables and fruits is important too, but you can just… you know… EAT them. They don’t have to be blended up into a pulp and mixed with protein powder or yogurt to be delicious.

And while you CAN exercise indoors if it’s too frigid or rainy or there’s a blizzard or whatever, any time conditions are reasonably decent for getting outside, it’s best for your exercise to happen there. Even a 20-minute walk on a paved path somewhere (preferably away from moving vehicles) is better for you than huffing around an indoor gym. The fresh air improves lung function, the sun gives you energy, and the benefits of surrounding yourself with nature are well-documented to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and improve the functionality of your immune system.

If you simply can’t get outdoors for some reason for awhile, consider supplementing your routine with lymphatic draining herbs such as calendula, cleavers, violets, or red clover. And even if you’re stuck inside, move those buns! Hang out with a houseplant beside a sunny window. Get a little nature in you, and you’ll feel much better.

One last tip: I never lost so much weight in my life as I did when I became a farmer. Best weight loss program EVER. Also, my back hurts…

Best workout EVER

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