Water – Think Beyond Just Quenching Your Thirst

Water really is the elixir of life.  An interesting perspective that another friend (a backpacking buddy) who is a well trained outdoorsman told me one summer the rule of three:

A human can survive for:

– 3 minutes without air
– 3 hours without a regulated body temperature (shelter)
– 3 days without water
– 3 weeks without food

Blue Lake - Indian peaks Wilderness, Colorado

Blue Lake – Indian peaks Wilderness, Colorado

These of course are considerations in the worst case scenarios, but specific to water, we’re generally all not hydrated enough.  If you feel even mildly thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated, and you need to drink water to catch up.  Even the slightest level of dehydration negatively affects the body’s physical and mental performance.  When you have a dry mouth, chapped lips or decreased urine output, your body is telling you very clearly that you need to hydrate, fast.  In the above rule of three, 3 days with no water is a pretty scary place to be…after 48 hours or so, assume fever, low blood pressure, cracked skin with no elasticity, no tears or sweat and in the most extreme cases, delirium or unconsciousness.  It doesn’t take much for the body to naturally start to take precautionary steps to accommodate when it is not getting ample water.

Dr John Douillard, an Ayurvedic practitioner in Boulder CO states that dehydration is one of the most common reasons that one’s Lymph system could be stagnant.  He suggests sipping hot water every 10-15 minutes throughout the day, totaling at least ½ your ideal body weight in ounces per day.  This means for a 150 lb person, drinking at least 75 oz, or (almost 10 cups of water) per day is necessary.  He just released anther excellent article on the Lymph here, as well.

Water is the key word here…not just any liquid.  Juice, soda, coffee etc do indeed contain some water, but it’s clearly not the same thing as drinking clean water.  At home, we have filtered our water with Reverse Osmosis (RO) for more than 10 years, and feel it is the best set up for us.  It’s convenient, inexpensive and does a great job in my opinion.  The filtered water clearly tastes superior to the tap water.

Also, despite the average American’s infatuation with ice cold drinks, room temp water (or even better yet, warm)  is so much better for you.  Consider that we are about 98.6 degrees; what happens when you dump ice water in?  Your insides immediately constrict, and it douses your digestive “fire”, making it considerably weaker. Drinking iced beverages with your meal can result in overall poor digestion, cramps, nausea, gas or constipation.

Finally, it’s ok to NOT have a beverage with your meal.  Doing so dilutes the acids needed for proper digestion.  If you would like, drink a glass 20-30 minutes before your meal if you want to help curb your appetite, as it will help you feel fuller, faster.

Water quality and its general availability are becoming more and more of a concern and many today feel that it is or will be one of the most important political and environmental concerns of the 21st century.  The excellent documentary ‘FLOW” discusses these concerns thoroughly, exposing many of the historical and current concerns as well as some of the most thought provoking solutions.

Why we filter our water comes down to doing whatever we can to mitigate the negative environmental impacts on what we put into our body.  No one would willingly drink a cup of straight chlorine bleach, and yet every time we drink tap water we’re drinking it in small quantities each and every day.  I totally get and respect the advances we have made as a society with clean drinking water.  I know how fortunate as a whole we are in America and yet it has come at a price, and there are better ways today.

So, for now I’ll take my drinking water filtered, thank you.  On another blog post, I will discuss more of the specifics as to what’s in the water  (hint: its much more than just chlorine!) at the kitchen sink that we’re so interested in removing before it flows into my glass.

Ever wonder about those people who spend $2 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward.  – George Carlin



“Going Paleo” is not something I think we’ll incorporate into our family protocol anytime soon.  Nor is being a vegetarian.  Both of these lifestyle choices could easily take several blog posts all on their own and yet as if they were politics, I may stay away from them in their entirety….we’ll see.

However, both of these relatively drastic dietary choices have merits, and for the topic of this blog I want to talk about bones.  Bones…as in using the complete carcass in the case of poultry.  The nutrient dense stock you get from them when properly preparing at home makes it not even a comparable product to anything you buy in the store.  If you look at the ingredient list in anything store bought there is no indication of bones or how the stock is made.  The bones are the key, and usually the difference in terminology.  Chicken broth is usually made when cooking the meat with some vegetables and seasonings.  Chicken stock is what we’re talking about here….made with the bones.

When cooked at the lowest simmer possible, for the longest amount of time….as much as 24 hours or so, the minerals that leech from the bones are second to none.  When I drink it, I seriously feel nourished deep down….it’s hard to describe.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The gelatin, a colloidal substance in bone stock assists digestion; in fact it is known to treat digestive disorders such as IBS, colitis and even Chrohn’s disease.
  • Bone stock contains minerals such as calcium, silicon, sulphur, magnesium, phosphorous & trace minerals in an easily digestible form. Calcium for one, is the most abundant mineral in bone and also the most abundant mineral in the body.
  • Gelatin is used to tonify the blood, with glycine, a key ingredient playing a vital role. Chinese studies have shown gelatin to increase red blood cell and hemoglobin count, increase serum calcium level, and increase the absorption and utilization of calcium.
  • Gelatin assists in neutralizing whatever intestinal poison is causing problems during an intestinal bug or flu.
  • Most stock recipes stress the quality that can be obtained from using highly cartilaginous parts of animals including joint areas, like chicken feet and beef knuckles, trachea and ribs.
  • Stock is a liver tonic (liver supportive) because it helps the body to detoxify during a cleanse, and in fact at any time it is eaten.
  • Stock also contains, Chondroitin Sulfate, a jellylike substance, now famous as a supplement for joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. It functions to support and provide adhesiveness. It lines blood vessels and plays a role in lowering atherosclerosis, cholesterol and heart attacks.

My own chicken broth process is adapted from numerous sources, and it works for us.  I usually make it with two whole chickens at a time, but only one this round, as shown.  I generally slowly roast the chicken, as it is simpler to use the meat in my opinion.  Should you choose to start with raw whole chickens right into the water, you have to remove the bird after about 2 hours.  Then you remove the meat and return everything else to the liquid to continue on.  Leaving chicken meat simmering for 12 or more hours makes it tough at first, and then mushy, like a tofu gone bad!

  1. I usually start in the morning after breakfast.  Remove innards, do not discard.  Place whole bird(s) into casserole/baking dish with innards, covered with foil or baking lid in oven at about 210 degrees for about 10 hours.

    photo 1

    Raw bird going in

  2. Time the start time for dinner, and about 15 minutes before dinner time flip bird over carefully. Remove foil and broil to lightly brown the top skin.  Enjoy the pulled meat for dinner.  Crispy skin is a killer appetizer to sneak before pulling the meat off the carcass!
  3. As you pull the meat, return the juices and bones to a crock pot on low setting.  I always try to break as many of the bones as possible to allow all the marrow to be fully released.  For one chicken, I add about 4 c of water.  Double that for two whole chickens.
  4. Add a few TBS of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar.  This acid helps to pull more minerals out of the bones.  COVER, and then simmer on the lowest setting.  My crock pot lowest setting is not as low as I would like, and I’ve read that the best simmer is when the bubbles are steady, but just barely breaking the surface.  My crock pot is slightly more than that but I am not worried about this slight difference.

    photo 2

    Some veggies added to bake for dinner that night.

  5. I run the crock pot for about 12 hours, and then put in chunks of 3-4 carrots, celery and an onion or two.  It is perfectly fine to stop after a few hours when the veggies are soft, or let it go another 12 more hours.  The longer the better.  Just be sure to add water as needed to keep the total liquid level about the same as when you started.
  6. Turn off crock pot.  You can let it cool for an hour or so to make straining it easier if you would like.  I strain it at least twice, sometimes three times.  I use a large holed (metal) pasta strainer first to remove the bones.  Since I hate wasting a single drop, I usually let the bones drip for awhile before straining it again.  Discard the bones (and the now mushy veggies) at this time.  Strain a second time using a finer, metal screen type strainer.

    photo 3

    Meat separated from bones

  7. Chill.  This is one area that is important for good food safety, as you need to properly chill within a short amount of time (well under 4 hours is best).  Putting a huge bowl in the fridge will take much too much time, and clearly not a good idea.  Once the stock is at a cool enough temperature to handle, break down your batch into quality zip lock bags or mason jars and freeze or chill in small batches. You could even put a few ice cubes into each batch to help it cool faster.
  8. Consume.  Add a little salt and sip like you would a good cup of tea.  Make soup.  Flavor simmered veggies with stock.  Always have some in the freezer for when the cold or flu season hits.  It is unbeatable.


    Broth in bowl after first strain

If it is total liquid and not wiggly like jello, it either may not have cooked long enough, you added too much water or it could have even been a poor quality CAFO chicken.  You want your finished, chilled product to have that jello-like wiggle, and even a nice layer of fat on top – don’t discard that!  Be sure to mix it in as you take your portion each time.

While I clearly favor chicken stock over the others I’ve made, broth can be made from turkey, beef, buffalo and even fish/shellfish.  The red meat batches generally add an extra step of braising bones in the oven first, but I’m just not a fan of the taste of this broth, although the end result is clearly still just as beneficial.  Once you get the process down, I think you will never go without some  in your freezer.

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”  ~Thomas Edison

Supplements in our diet: my case for Vitamin C

Rainbow Chard from our garden...incredible source of VC....and its so beautiful!

Rainbow Chard from our garden…incredible source of VC….and its so beautiful!

Whole, unprocessed, organic, real food is hands down the most important part of our diet.  One cannot live on processed supplements alone, no matter how hard you might try.  The move to supplement bars, or instant breakfast meals in a bar/drink are utterly crazy to me, and in my opinion, not good for anything other than a short term fix.  I love some of the good bars available only for long hikes or other outdoor activities where a meal is not an option.  There are some really good raw bars out there I really like.

However, no matter how hard we try to eat well all the time, supplements do play an important part in our daily regimen.  Like our use of garlic, we have staved off many simple colds, and who knows how many other unwanted invasions of good health by a small core of basic supplements.  At the moment, we prefer a select few individual vitamins, minerals and a fish oil versus a “multi-vitamin” because you just cannot get enough of the quality ingredients or the highest dose into a capsule when you’re trying to make an “all in one” product.  In addition, we do eat very well in our house, with most every meal eaten as a family with fresh, home-cooked foods.

Orthomolecular Medicine is the term coined by chemist Linus Pauling back in the 1960’s describing a form of alternative medicine built around maintaining optimal health through nutritional supplementation; aka vitamins and minerals.  Generally, my entire family takes 2 grams of Vitamin C each day….a gram with breakfast, and a gram with dinner. This is a maintenance dose for us especially October through May despite the RDA being only 60 milligrams.  We step it up to one gram an hour when a cold threatens.  There are virtually no side effects, until you get bowel discomfort, and once you reach that (no one in our family ever has, even our youngest) we know that is the limit and would simply back off at that point.

A close family member was diagnosed with shingles last summer.  What an unpleasant and somewhat scary experience.  We were past the time window where any pharmaceutical might have worked (successful treatment with most drugs is questionable at best, apparently).  After some research, VC was taken at about a gram per hour as long as she was awake.  There were some other supplements she took and applied topically, but in the end the shingles was gone…simply gone in under 2 weeks.  In fact, what looked like it could have left an ugly, permanent scar had no remains whatsoever just a few weeks after that.  Our brief experience with shingles wasn’t fun by any means, but we clearly beat the odds and hope to not see that one again anytime soon.

Vitamin C initially came into importance as a supplement to ward off scurvy, which it did in relatively low doses through the addition of citrus into one’s diet.  Over time, research has shown that it is incredibly safe, even in enormous doses, with little to no side effects, especially when compared to the side effects of the pharmaceutical alternatives.  The theory of VC causing kidney stones has been repeatedly dis-proven, as discussed here although countless other sources are available.

The list of conditions successfully treated is long and there are numerous success stories even with many types of cancer.  Success has been shown in both a cure rate as well as in a boost in quality of life during standard cancer treatment.  In these scenarios, the VC is delivered in ultra high doses intravenously, but the effects are the same.

Living in a generally over medicated and undernourished country, I think basic supplementation offers benefits that far outweigh any negatives or potential side effects.  I don’t believe in popping pills for every ailment that comes our way, but rather keeping a strong, vibrant immune system that is well equipped to fight whatever may come down the pike, as the body was so well designed to do on its own.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  ~Hippocrates

By the way….one of the all time best documentaries is available for a few more days for FREE!  Viewing is online only.  FOOD MATTERS is a must see, and covers food and supplements to the nth degree.


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The Zen of Chickens: the first of several posts on urban farming and backyard gardening

IMG_4757I love back yard gardening…it’s one of the best and most economical ways to take control of your food source, not to mention lessen your reliance on the grocery store, if even just a little.  I could be easily persuaded to take up farming as a new occupation, but for now, it’s not in the cards.  Add to that some chickens and bees and I’d be one happy backyard farmer.  Maybe the title “farmer” would be a stretch, but something I would surely be enamored by.

However for the past two years, we were lucky enough to fall into the great fortune of joining a local chicken co-op just a few minutes from our home.  Our kids also attend the only public Charter Montessori in the US that runs from pre-K-12th grade.  As a part of the community, the school has a complete working farm that fits neatly into Dr. Montessori’s teaching.  Despite dog and cat allergies, we’re an animal loving family and the co-op offered an exceptional source for farm fresh eggs.  More importantly however, is the experience of knowing where some of our food comes from and the work involved in getting it home.

The co-op started with almost 40 chicks and a dozen or so eager families.  Nine of the chicks we raised ourselves in our own home for a few months.  It was fun for the first 3-4 weeks…then when they tripled in size yet lived in the same box, the dust and noise got old rather quickly!  What an experience for everyone though.  The co-op’s intention was not to get cheap eggs, but when the eggs did start coming, they were exceptional.  They were all we had heard about of a farm fresh egg, with bright yellow/orangey firm yolks and non-runny whites.  The taste of a 5 minute poached egg from the farm is out of this world.  A few times I would collect a warm egg from the coop, and it was in the pan 20 minutes later.  Nothing better.

IMG_4764For our own needs, we have the best source at the moment, and we know how lucky we are to have the opportunity.  It’s nice to know more and more families are becoming backyard farmers, and some are even selling excess eggs.  Many municipalities are quickly changing regulations to accommodate this trend too.  If you buy from a local or backyard chicken farmer, be sure you know what the chickens are eating, and visit the coop before you buy. Remember, chickens are omnivores. They really should have full access to the outside air/and the earth underfoot.  In a true free range scenario, they would have access to grasses, bugs, worms, and grubs in addition to some supplemental organic grains and tons of your green waste from the kitchen.  You would think they were never fed when I would arrive with a bag of kitchen waste….it was devoured within minutes.  In a more perfect world, mimicking nature is how Joel Salatin runs his Polyface Farm in Virginia (we got to visit a few years ago, and loved it).  He explains how he rotates his livestock through each paddock, and why the soil, growing grass, and each animal is so critical to one another in this brief video.

In my opinion, eggs are truly an exceptional food source, and finally research is backing this more and more.  Many people avoid eggs due to the misunderstanding that they contribute to high cholesterol, but studies have shown that even an egg a day does not change your cholesterol levels.  Vani Hari (aka the Food Babe) says in a recent cooking segment/blog post that yolks are good for the brain, even helping to protect us from Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  She pointed out David Perlmutter MD gets into detail on this in his book ‘Grain Brain’.  Even Dr Oz chimed in by saying to “ditch the egg-white-only mantra!”  He goes on in detail to saying how “yolks contain the bulk of the egg’s nutrients, including minerals like calcium and magnesium and vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12 … the list goes on! In fact, eggs are loaded with so many nutrients that some scientists suggest a few eggs a day could provide a bigger health insurance policy than a multivitamin. They have 100% of the carotenoids essential for healthy eyes, protecting them against vision loss. Eggs are also rich in protein and an energy-sustaining food that helps stave off fatigue.”

It is my hope that sustainable farming and livestock practices will gain more and more prevalence, and that a chicken (or two) in every backyard will help sway the trend away from massive, commercial egg farms.  Despite the premise of an automated and sterile environment in which commercial egg farms are operated, the exact opposite results occur.  Sick birds are commonplace despite regular antibiotic use.  Contaminated eggs are not uncommon, including a massive egg recall back in 2010.  This is much more common here in America than anywhere else.  An article discussing eggs and refrigeration makes a similar point.  Finally, it’s no surprise that nutrient content is also being questioned in factory farmed vs free range, organic farmed chickens/eggs, as discussed in more detail here .

Our backyard garden and the chicken co-op work well for us.  We also tried out a first year CSA that shares space on the same farm as the chickens.  The produce was exceptional, although I think we will stick with my own garden this next season, as I work to increase production every year.  There are many options to take back your food, and know where it comes from.  The internet offers a plethora of resources to learn backyard chickening, and my hope is to have more families give it a try.

“True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington”  ~Anonymous