Not Another MLM!?! Is Network Marketing a SCAM?!

You’ve seen it a hundred times.

Your good friend Karen is just a normal person, minding her own business… then

BAM!

Karen joins an MLM company.

You avoid talking to her.

You ignore her messages in your inbox.

You may even unfollow her on social media so you don’t have to see the posts about her products.

You are convinced that MLMs are bad news. You haven’t ever actually done business with one before, but you’ve heard a lot of rumors. And they aren’t good:

  • The products are overpriced
  • The reps are obnoxious
  • They have bad business practices
  • MLMs are a scam

While some of this may be true of some companies or some reps, it is important to note that Network Marketing (previously known as Multi-Level-Marketing) is none of these things in and of itself.

Network Marketing is just a way that some companies do business.

It’s simply a different marketing strategy.

Just as most companies employ “conventional” marketing techniques like TV commercials, billboards, internet banners and other such methods, Network Marketing companies employ an equally valid marketing technique:

Word of Mouth

It is well-known in the world of retail sales that the gold standard of advertising is word-of-mouth advertising for a couple of reasons:

  1. Word of Mouth advertising is free
  2. Word of Mouth advertising is incredibly effective:
    • If your mom tells you she just had the best burger of her life at the new restaurant on the corner…what will you be having for lunch tomorrow?
    • If a guy you meet at work tells you Lasik eye surgery changed his life and he hasn’t had to use glasses for 13 years, are you likely to consider it for yourself?
    • If you watch a girl at church go from a size 18 to a size 6 and she tells you it’s because she started drinking a certain brand of shake, how likely are you to look up that specific brand as soon as you get home?

Word of Mouth Advertising is powerful. When someone you trust tells you that a product is good, you listen. And you are much more likely to buy that product than if you just saw it on a TV commercial.

And that referral didn’t cost the company anything!

Companies all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most influential marketing of all, but they all use different ways to entice people to recommend their products.

Some companies offer affiliate programs to bloggers or social media influencers. For example, if you sign up as an affiliate for Amazon, you can create product links that generate a commission for you whenever someone buys. The larger your referral sales, the higher the commissions.

If you like to look at reviews before buying a product, you have probably seen reviews that said, “I received this product for free/at a discount in exchange for my honest review.” Companies are desperate to harness the power of word-of-mouth. So desperate, they are willing to give their products away for FREE to get it!

If every company in the world could use the power of Word-of-Mouth marketing for every product, they definitely would.

What Makes Network Marketing Different

Network Marketing companies harness the power of Word-of-Mouth marketing instead of traditional marketing methods—and they use those billions of dollars of advertising budget to pay a grassroots army of reps, who live and work among the masses.

People like your cousin Lucy or your uncle Marvin.

People you trust.

People you love.

And if your mom is selling a great shampoo, wouldn’t you much rather use your dollars to support her than buy an inferior quality product from a big box store?

The strategy is genius if you think about it: the product has to be great, or they won’t find people to recommend it to everyone they know.

Because of this, the products from network marketing companies are often far superior to anything you can buy on the mass market.

BUT…??

Now let’s look at a few of the objections that may pop up in your mind when considering a network marketing company or opportunity:

Objection #1: The products are overpriced.

I used to think this too.  After all, why would I buy a $30 face wash or a $50 supplement when I can get what looks like the same thing for ¼ the price at Target or on Amazon?

It looked like those multi-tiered compensation plans just created a bunch of needlessly expensive products.

Then I did some research.

I started seeing products I really wanted to try from network marketing companies that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Sure, there is a supplement that says it does the same thing on Amazon a lot cheaper, but when I look at the reviews on that product it doesn’t seem to be working for people. When I find one online that does have great reviews, it is even more expensive than the “expensive” network marketing product I was trying to avoid! And often the network marketing products last a lot longer or include freebies with a purchase… and they want to give me a discount!

When I really started looking into it, I realized the products weren’t overpriced after all. They were often better quality than what I could get anywhere else, and they were cheaper!

Almost every network marketing company offers discounts on their products based on an automatic shipment, and most also offer wholesale pricing to distributors, or to people who want to buy a bundle of products initially.

Quality matters. I have come to learn that I get what I pay for. People aren’t buying expensive things because they are stupid. They are buying more expensive things because there is value there.

Have you ever purchased a cheap product from a retailer and it barely survived the ride home? Purchased a supplement or protein powder of inferior quality that did nothing for you—or worse—made you sick?

These products have rave reviews for a reason. People are paying their prices for a reason. The quality demands it.

Did you know there is a 70% mark up on any product you buy on a store shelf? There are a lot of expenses that go into a product that have nothing to do with its quality:

  • Manufacturing
  • Advertising
  • Distribution
  • Retailer Mark-up

You are never paying what it costs to make the product because there are so many steps (and people who need to get paid) in-between.

So if you are buying a bar of soap that costs $1, think about it: what kind of quality can it possibly have? It cost the manufacturer 20-30 cents to make it. Are you willing to wash your body with something that cost 20 cents? If you’ve ever tried to make soap, you know it costs more than $1 just to make it with the raw materials, not even including the effort, marketing and shipping. So that soap you thought was such a good deal? Watered down and likely toxic. All so you could save $1.

The businesses that create products are doing it to make money. Everyone has to make a living. So if they are selling cheap products, it’s worth considering what you are really spending your money on. If it’s an inferior quality product with toxic ingredients that will last you a week instead of a month, are you really getting such a good deal?

Story Time

Once my husband purchased “cheap” underwear at Target. He expected that maybe it wouldn’t last as long as the ones he usually bought, but what he didn’t anticipate was that he couldn’t wear them at all. They were itchy and uncomfortable, and he threw the whole package away. Did he save money or waste it? Now he only buys quality underwear, even if it costs three times as much. They are comfortable and they last 2-3 years, so for him that is the value that matters.

When you do a bit of research, you will find that most network marketing companies provide products of superior quality which present a better value than cheaper products offered in stores.

Another example: for years I looked for a natural shampoo that would make my hair healthy. I tried every product on the market: whatever I could find at my local health food store, at salons and online. Nothing ever worked for me.

My hair was damaged, frizzy, thin and unmanageable. I was frustrated because I was not willing to compromise on ingredients. I only wanted to use something natural… but nothing natural ever worked!

I heard about a hair care brand called MONAT, but I balked at the prices. Why would I pay so much for shampoo? When I looked at salon-quality brands, however, they were even more expensive—and filled with toxic ingredients I didn’t want to use!

So I tried it.

Guys.

From the first wash, I could see, feel, smell the difference. My hair was smoother, shinier, more manageable without me doing anything different! Not only that, but that handful of hair I used to shed in the shower? It was reduced to just a few strands.

Photos on the left: before MONAT. Photo on the right: about 11 months of exclusive MONAT use.

I was hooked. How could I not use this stuff? I had been looking for it for YEARS.

And as it turns out, the first bottle I ever purchased lasted me almost a YEAR. That made it cheaper than anything I’ve ever used before: even the clearance stuff of the store shelf at a big box store!

Some things are more important than saving a little cash.

We have to consider the quality of the product.

If I’m faced with a crappy cup of coffee or no coffee at all… I choose no coffee. Every time. It’s not worth it to me if I don’t like it.

The experience also counts for something. Just walking into a locally-owned coffee shop relaxes me. I feel comfortable and wanted: it makes me want to stay awhile. On the contrary: walking into a convenience store is harsh and sterile. I want to get out of there as soon as possible!

I will happily go out of my way to go into a locally-owned coffee shop and pay four times the price of a cup of coffee—because cheap gas station coffee isn’t worth getting at all.

This is the whole idea behind Network Marketing. What if, instead of buying from a corporation, we could buy from our friends… our family… our neighbors?

What if we worked together and helped each other? When all of my friends have small businesses, I can get everything I need from my circle…. I don’t  have to step foot into Wal-Mart or Target if I don’t want to. I get the best products for a great value and the best possible customer service—because I’m shopping with my friends.

Objection #2: The reps are obnoxious.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with people who were involved with Network Marketing companies. Maybe they hassled you and bothered you and spammed you with information you didn’t ask for.

Maybe someone sent you a friend request on social media, only to immediately send you a cold message asking you to buy their products or share their business with your friends.

These are not good business practices; they never were. Not only are they annoying, they simply don’t work. Irritated people will not become your friends, your customers or your business partners.

But think about it: just because some people do it wrong doesn’t mean you should never do business with anyone involved in Network Marketing.

As we discussed above, the quality of many products from Network Marketing companies is superior to anything you can find in the store, and often at a better value.

Why would a bad experience with one person or company prevent you from benefiting from great products or even a business opportunity you could really use with another person or company?

Most companies appeal to consumer wants and needs through advertising.

Network Marketing companies appeal to consumers through relationships.

It’s like the difference between going to a gas station for coffee or stopping in at a locally-owned coffee shop.

Sure, you may pay more for the coffee from the coffee shop, but you probably get better quality coffee (that tastes better), a more inviting atmosphere, and you can sit and chat with the owner while you are there.

Which one is really the better value?

Objection #3: Pyramid Scheme! 

We’ve all heard that MLMs are “pyramid schemes.”

But this isn’t accurate.

From Wikipedia: A pyramid scheme is a business model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products.

Pyramid schemes are illegal, and don’t involve any products or services. They ask for money from participants, and promise that everyone will make much more money than they “invested.” No products or services are exchanged.

Example: Sally tells Bill that there is an investment opportunity that is really easy. All he has to do is invest $1000 and recruit 2 or 3 other people to do the same, and he will make back $5000. Sound good? Maybe, but it also sounds very sketchy.

Pyramid schemes are illegal for a reason: they are a true scam. People at the top make all of the money, and people at the bottom are left holding the bag when the whole thing collapses.

Network marketing companies aren’t like this at all. There are true products and services involved, and that is what you exchange your money for. Just like when you walk into a store and fill your cart then pay for it… you do the same thing with network marketing companies.

The ONLY DIFFERENCE between network marketing companies and other companies is the way they market their products. That’s it. Just the advertising. Everything else is the same.

Now let’s do a little exercise.

Pull out a piece of scrap paper and draw the organizational layout of the company you work for. Or of Sony. Or Ford.

There’s a guy at the top, right? Usually the CEO. Then a couple of people under him, and a few people under them, and on and on and on.

What shape does your drawing make?

Pretty much every company makes this shape: with the people at the top “making the most money,” and the people at the bottom “doing all the work.”

So next time you are tempted to yell “pyramid scheme…” think about it.

The thing I like about network marketing is that it is a level playing field. Literally anyone can be successful, with little to no start-up cost.

Do you have to work hard? Yes.

Do you have to be determined and persistent? Yes.

But is there any limit to what you can accomplish? No.

Sounds kind of like the American Dream to me. 

The tax savings alone make it worth joining a network marketing company, because when you do, you are “starting a business” in the eyes of the IRS, and that means tax deductions, which can get you a fat return check in April.

Besides tax savings, residual income is definitely something you want–and network marketing companies provide that in spades. Would you like to work once and get paid forever? That’s the kind of potential we are talking about here.

To Recap….

Network Marketing is a business model that involves marketing primarily based in Word-of-Mouth advertising. Network marketing companies harness word-of-mouth marketing over traditional mass-marketing methods.

And in the process, they partner with individuals like you and me. They allow us to be their spokespeople, which is way better than hiring celebrities and purchasing TV spots or internet banner ads.

Better for them, and better for us.

It’s better them, because they pay out their “advertising costs” on commissions.

Instead of spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign, they will pay out millions of dollars in commissions to regular people like you and me.

That advertising money is spent either way. But when it’s spent on commissions rather than advertising, everyone wins.

The company gets more effective advertising, dollar for dollar. And we have the opportunity to build residual, passive income and become financially independent.

Once you understand what Network Marketing is, and what it is capable of giving you, I think you will believe (like I do) that it is the best business model there is.

What Do You Think?

Did you learn anything new about Network Marketing or MLM business strategy?

Will you think differently about it the next time you hear someone say, “I don’t do MLMs,” or, “That’s a pyramid scheme?”

 

 

More Resources

Residual Income: How to Get it in 5 Steps

You Need a Side Hustle: Tax Advantages to Having a Home-Based Business

How to Get the Best Hair of Your Life–And Make Money Doing It

Save the Most Money Possible on the Best Natural Haircare and Skincare

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

 

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

The Truth About Fluoride

No matter where you live or what you believe, you’ve probably heard conflicting information about fluoride.

We are all taught from an early age that fluoride is beneficial for teeth and that it can prevent tooth decay. We hear this from the dentist, from our parents, on TV, and we may even be exposed to an advertising campaign aiming to make sure we know all the wonderful benefits of having fluoride in our toothpaste and in our water.

We also hear conflicting information, however: and usually this information comes from less… “reliable” or “trusted” sources.

Perhaps you heard it from your conspiracy theorist uncle, or you saw alarmist posts on social media. Maybe you’re noticing the products on the store shelves that boast a lack of fluoride (fluoride-free toothpastes and water filters that can remove the fluoride from your water).

Is All Fluoride Created Equal?

First of all, I have been researching natural health and how to heal ourselves without meds for over a decade. During that time I have discovered that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Fluoride is no exception. It’s not a clear-cut case of “Fluoride: bad, ” as it turns out.

This fact was discovered by my friend Kara over at Deep South Crunchy Mom when we were discussing Kombucha. She told me that in an effort to cut back on coffee, she was now drinking Kombucha every morning and it was doing wonders for her gut health and energy levels. I told her I had read on the blog Cheeseslave that there were high levels of fluoride in Kombucha, both because tea leaves tend to absorb fluoride from the soil, and because fluoride is a byproduct of the kombucha-making process.

Kara was devastated (but not for long). She knew the fluoride in our water and toothpaste was bad (see below) but thought there had to be some difference between naturally-occuring fluoride in tea and kombucha, and the nasty industrial waste product found in our water supply or even the pharmaceutical grade fluoride found in our toothpaste (which is still a neurotoxin).

See what she found here.

Then, if you are curious about Kombucha and what it can do for you, head over to my friend Sara’s blog Clean Living with Kids, to learn more about Kombucha and how to make it.

What is the Truth About Fluoride?

If you’re here for the first time, you may not know it, but I have been researching health, nutrition and the big industries in America for over a decade. (Read here about how I got started on this journey).

I have learned a lot of very eye-opening information during this time, but the number one thing I’ve learned is:

We can’t trust everyone, especially those who are profiting from our trust.

Have you ever heard the term, “Follow the money?”

It may seem cliche, but this phrase one of the truest statements you will ever hear regarding the dangers in our food and water supply as well as a lot of the other dangers in our society today.

If you hear of a “conspiracy” in any area of society, whether it pertains to food or politics or anything else, and you think, “Why would they do that?” The answer is almost inevitably: “Follow the money.”

A Brief History of Fluoride

Fluoride was first added to the U.S. water supply in 1945 in an effort to combat tooth decay.

It seems strange that this was the goal, however, because the year before (1944) the American Dental Association found that fluoride was actually detrimental to teeth and could cause decay and other issues.

The 1944 the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that using between 1.6 and 4 ppm (parts per million) fluoride in water would cause 50% of adults to need false teeth. On top of that, the world’s largest study looked at 400,000 students, revealing that tooth decay increased in over 25% with just 1ppm fluoride in drinking water. (Source 1)

To understand why a chemical of then unknown risk was added to our water supply for seemingly no good reason at all, we have to understand the mindset of the scientific community in post World War II America:

“The history of community water fluoridation is a reflection of the post WWII era of the 1950’s when many thought chemicals in one form or another could solve almost any problem. Our gaze was focused on the beneficial properties of the chemicals, not on the potential hazards. A classic example is DDT, that in addition to being a potent pesticide, almost killed off predatory birds and more recently was found to be harmful to humans.”  –Steven Gilbert, Ph.D., founder and director of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND) (Source 2)

Since that time, it has become widely known that fluoride is a neurotoxin, yet it is still added to approximately 70% of US water supplies. Why?

Any dentist will tell you it is beneficial for our teeth. But is it?

And what are the potential hazards of this chemical?

And how is it produced?

We’ve already discussed that the American Dental Association has known since 1944 (the year before water fluoridation began) that fluoride is actually not beneficial for dental health. So why have they been adding it to water supplies ever since?

In 1945, a large quantity of hydrogen fluoride was produced as a byproduct of industry from DuPont’s Deepwater, New Jersey, plant. The huge quantities of this chemical byproduct were a problem: they had no good way to dispose of it, so they proposed a solution: add it to the water supply. After the government was convinced that fluoride was good for our dental health and that it should be added to water, they continued to do so, finding other sources, like the fertilizer industry, which produces phosphates as an industrial byproduct.

Again from Dr. Gilbert:

Many are surprised to learn that unlike the pharmaceutical grade fluoride in their toothpaste, the fluoride in their water is an untreated industrial waste product, one that contains trace elements of arsenic and lead.

Without the phosphate industry’s effluent, water fluoridation would be prohibitively expensive. And without fluoridation, the phosphate industry would be stuck with an expensive waste disposal problem.”

Studies Proving Harm from Fluoride Ingestion

If you thinks this smacks of conspiracy, take a look at this. When European countries such as Germany, the UK, Italy and France did a risk analysis of fluoride, they all concluded that it was a dangerous toxin and that any potential benefit was not worth the risk.

They further concluded that adding fluoride to drinking water has no measurable benefit to dental health at all. It doesn’t even make sense to take it internally when it is only supposed to help prevent enamel erosion and decay.

Dr. Gilbert explains that the U.S. government’s decision to fluoridate drinking water was the result of two short-term studies that compared cavity rates in a city with water fluoridation (Muskegon/Grand Rapids, Michigan) with the cavity rates in a city without it (Kingston/Newburgh, New York).

These two studies were set to run 10 years, but when early results showed cavity reduction, the U.S. Public Health Service approved water fluoridation after five years — with no data or safety studies on long-term toxicity.

A more recent study done by researchers collaborating in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico shows that fluoride levels ingested by a pregnant mother is inversely proportional to the IQ of the child she is carrying. Because of reports of neurotoxicity from fluoride, these researchers wanted to do a study that measured the actual effects on prenatal brain development when the pregnant mother ingested differing amounts of fluoride. The study included 299 participants and the results were astounding: for every increase in maternal urine fluoride by0.5mg/L, the IQ of the child she was carrying was lowered measurably and significantly (Source 5).

Okay, so we shouldn’t fluoridate our water… but what about toothpaste?

If you are thinking that maybe fluoridating the water supply went too far, but we should still harness the dental health benefits of this chemical at the dentist and when we brush our teeth, think again.

Remember, it’s never a good idea to put a neurotoxin in your mouth.

Let’s look at this logically. Pick up a tube of fluoridated toothpaste and look at the back. There is probably a warning on the back that it is “harmful if swallowed,” and that you should call poison control:

Wait…what?

You should call poison control if you swallow something that you put in your mouth every day? Does that sound reasonable to you?

How much fluoride is worth calling poison control?

The amount of toothpaste that the package itself says it harmful to swallow (and that poison control should be enlisted) is the amount in one use: a pea-sized amount (as listed on the package).

Do you know anyone who uses a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when they brush their teeth? Do you? These are the images we see every day, on every package of toothpaste, and on every television commercial:

To me that looks like about 6 peas lined up together, and one source said the “pea-sized amount” is about the size of a split pea: much smaller than you would think!

So if more than a tiny pea-sized amount of toothpaste, a product we put in our mouth every day at least once, is swallowed, we are supposed to call poison control. Because fluoride is toxic. Does that sound okay to everyone?

Add this to the fact that the fluoride found in toothpaste is actually pharmaceutical grade, and the fluoride found in our water supply is an industrial waste product (most recently being purchased by our government from China’s industrial waste supply, because not even China thinks fluoride is safe enough to put in their water supply)….

 

…and to the fact that fluoride doesn’t even benefit our teeth! The evidence that there is any benefit to dental health at all is sketchy at best, and far outweighed by the toxic nature of the chemical itself.

Which really begins to beg the question… why are we being poisoned with fluoride?!

Is it Really That Bad?

At this point you may be thinking, “Okay, I’m sure fluoride is toxic at high levels, but surely we aren’t ingesting anything significant in our drinking water, right?”

Wrong.

And that is why adding fluoride to drinking water is so dangerous. The amount of water people drink on a daily basis can vary widely from person to person, and the toxicity of even just a minute amount can affect a baby much more than it can affect a 200-pound man.

So how can the government be so irresponsible as to allow a known neurotoxin to be added to our water supply? And why would they tell us it’s good for us?

The world’s largest study looked at 400,000 students, revealing that tooth decay increased in over 25% with just 1ppm fluoride in drinking water. How much fluoride is in our drinking water? A minimum of 1ppm.

And how much fluoride do you have to ingest for it to become toxic? Well, that depends what you mean by toxic. The minimum lethal dose of fluoride is 5 milligrams of fluoride for each kilogram of body weight. And how much fluoride does the average fluoride toothpaste contain? About 5 mg in a tiny pea sized dollop (which we 10x every time we brush our teeth).

For an adult, one swallow is not a lethal dose of fluoride, but consider that many children’s toothpastes are also fluoridated:

“Most disturbing, however, is the fact that even bubble-gum and fruit-flavored toothpastes for children contain sufficient amounts of fluoride to kill a child. Indeed, as shown in the following table, an average-weighing 2-year-old child could die from ingesting just 40% of a “Colgate for Kids” bubble-gum flavored toothpaste.”  (Source 6)

So… we make children’s toothpaste taste like candy and then put enough fluoride in less than half a tube of it to kill them.

Perfect.

Another disturbing fact is that fluoride builds up in the body. It is not flushed out like you may think. This means the effects of this poison are cumulative.

Now that 8 glasses of water we drink every day doesn’t seem so harmless, does it? That tiny bit of toothpaste we swallow twice a day just got a lot more intimidating.

 

The Plot Thickens…

Don’t forget to check out my friend Kara’s post about why not all fluoride is created equal…

And if you are curious about Kombucha, check out Sara’s post about the benefits of Kombucha and how to make it yourself.

Resources and Citations

  1. https://www.naturalnews.com/036280_history_water_fluoridation_FDA_approval.html
  2. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/05/23/statement-opposing-fluoride.aspx
  3. Hazard Profile on the Fluoridation of Drinking Water 
  4. Health Effects Database
  5. Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6–12 Years of Age in Mexico

  6. What is a Lethal Dose of Fluoride?

  7. How Fluoride Was Sold to America and How We Bought It
  8. More Fluoride Resources

 

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

Eyeing that Instant Pot? Why Stainless Steel Isn’t as Safe as You Think (and What to Use Instead)

When I learned about the dangers of aluminum cookware and non-stick coatings, I was eager to find safe alternatives that I could use without the risk of exposing my family to dangerous heavy metals or toxic chemicals.

I began researching all the options: from stainless steel to glass, copper and ceramic. I made a lot of rice, so I wanted a rice cooker (they make the best rice!) but it was very difficult to find a rice cooker that was not non-stick-coated aluminum.

I first began looking for rice cookers with stainless steel inserts, because I knew that was safe. My research, however, led me to the facts, which are not always as simple as we think.

Stainless steel is safe… sometimes.

As with everything else, manufacturers eventually will cut corners and produce inferior products that save them money in production and increase their profits. Stainless steel is no different.

Instant Pots are all the craze right now–and why not? They make cooking easy, quick and fun again! They don’t heat up the house and they create delicious meals in minutes! They’re programmable and they come in huge sizes–perfect for any family! Most importantly, they are made of stainless steel, so they are completely safe!

Not so fast. 

With every material, there is some kind of trade-off…so it’s good to be informed as to the benefits and the risks associated with each material.

I’m teaming up with Kara at Deep South Crunchy Mom and Sarah at Clean Living With Kids to bring you a series on truly safe cookware.  We want you to have all of the information: risks and benefits, so you can decide for yourself what are the best materials for your family.

See Kara’s post about cast iron here,

And Sarah’s post about glass here.

What’s Wrong With Stainless Steel?

At first glance, stainless steel seems like the perfect solution: it’s hypo-allergenic, it doesn’t rust, it isn’t breakable, and it doesn’t have any heavy metal issues.

Upon closer examination, we will see that not all stainless steel is created equally.

Cheaper grades of stainless steel are not as pure as we have been led to believe, and they can leach nickel into our food. Nickel is a heavy metal, so this is not ideal. (Read more about nickel toxicity here).

How do I know if my stainless steel is safe?

It can be very difficult to determine what grade of stainless steel you are using…. and this is where it gets confusing. There are quite a few grades and classifications of stainless steel (read about them here), and each grade is a different combination of metal alloys.

Bottom of my one stainless steel pot (I use it for popcorn)

Manufacturers don’t often disclose what grade of stainless steel they are using in the cookware that we buy at the store, but a general rule of thumb is: the more expensive it is, the higher grade it is.

In general, stainless steel cookware is either of the 300 or 400 series, and often you can see the grade stamped on the bottom of the pot. Usually these numbers look something like 18/10 (most common), which indicates it is 18% chromium and 10% nickel.

To me, 10% is a lot…especially when it can leach into my food. So I try not to use this kind of stainless steel on a regular basis. I have one stainless pan (pictured) that I use just for popcorn or for steaming things in a separate bowl inside of it.

I’d be particularly wary of cooking anything acidic (tomato sauces, anything with citrus) in low-grade stainless steel, as it would more readily leach the harmful nickel into your food, especially with high pressure or long cooking times.

Check your stainless steel pots and pans for this mark to see what grade your pots and pans are. They are likely this 304 18/10 grade, as that is the most common and most affordable. If you didn’t pay $300 to $400 for each of your pans, it’s not likely they are a high enough grade that would eliminate the nickel (18/0).

If Stainless Steel isn’t Safe, What Can I Use?

I know this is frustrating. It seems like nothing is safe any more, so why even bother? What can I even use?

I have a few things that I use that are safe:

I’m also not a fan of glazed ceramic, like is used in slow cookers and other baking dishes, because it has been found that trace amounts of lead exist in all of those glazes. Now, trace amounts might not matter too much when it’s in your drinking glass… but I don’t want my hot food stewing in something that has any lead in it for hours on end.

So in my house, I primarily use these three materials, and my favorite is clay.

Unglazed clay is great for a lot of reasons, and my favorite way to cook with it is VitaClay.

  • Pure Zisha clay has no lead or heavy metals (3rd party lab verified)
  • No glaze means no added lead
  • Clay has excellent thermal heat retention properties
  • Clay has excellent nutrient retention properties
  • Clay preserves texture and flavor better than any other material
  • Clay employs infrared heat to cook the food faster and more safely than other methods

VitaClay is my favorite because it is a multi-cooker, and it makes cooking easy, quick, safe, and non-toxic! Plus it doesn’t heat up the house or run up the utility bills.

VitaClay is a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, broth maker, steamer, and reheater in one. It can do almost all of my cooking tasks quickly and more easily than with other methods.

The food in VitaClay comes out tasting better than cooking with any other material I’ve used, including stainless steel, non-stick, glass and cast iron. For some reason, food just tastes better when cooked in clay.

VitaClay is the best of all worlds–delivering safe, delicious food, home-cooked without the hassles, the stress or the mess. Most meals can be put together in less than 10 minutes, then VitaClay takes over, and dinner is ready when I am. It even has a preset feature that allows me to have steel-cut oats ready when I wake up in the morning!

And if you’re still thinking that Instant Pot will cook your food faster and more easily, think again! We tested several dozen recipes in both VitaClay and Instant Pot, and in most cases, the meals were cooked faster (not to mention with better results) in VitaClay! Why? Because that “15 minute” recipe quickly becomes 55 minutes when you take into account the 20 minutes it takes to pressurize and the additional 20 minutes it takes to de-pressurize. VitaClay, not being a pressure cooker, has none of that extra time added on and still cooks 50-75% faster than other slow cookers and multi-cookers.

VitaClay is truly my favorite kitchen appliance: it has replaced my slow cooker, my rice cooker, my yogurt maker, my microwave, and my stock pot… just to name a few. And the results are always better in clay.

Right now you can get 10% off any VitaClay cooker on the website with code NOURISH10 at checkout. So start saving today! If you’d rather order from Amazon, check it out here.

 

And please, if you do decide to use the Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, always follow these safety tips to avoid explosions, burns or serious injury.

Resources:
Here is more information about Stainless Steel Cookware and the different grades that can be found.

Here is the 3rd party lab testing that has been done to ensure the unglazed clay used in VitaClay pots is free of lead and other heavy metals.

Check out Kara’s post at Deep South Crunchy Mom about the benefits of cast iron and why you should replace your non-stick pans STAT.

Check out the post from Sarah at Clean Living with Kids on glass bakeware and why glass is a great cookware option opposed to glazed ceramic, aluminum or other non-stick options.

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

Dirty Benefits: Diatomaceous Earth

When we think of something as “dirty,” we often think it’s something that needs to be sanitized, sterilized and washed clean.

Our “culture of clean,” complete with an unlimited supply of antibiotic soaps, gels and hand wipes, is new to our bodies and our microbiome.

What is our microbiome? It’s all of the symbiotic organisms that live on and in our bodies that keep us healthy. That’s right: our bodies are host to trillions of bacteria, both “good” and “bad.”

I’ve seen estimates that indicate: by mass,
our bodies are
made up of up to 90% bacteria!

That gives me a different perspective on germs, dirt and what it means to be “dirty.” It makes me think that maybe dirt isn’t the enemy we’ve always thought it was, and that being “squeaky clean” is not all it’s cut out to be.

In this series on dirt, I’m partnering with Deep South Crunchy Mom and Clean Living with Kids to talk about different types of dirt that are actually really good for us!

Bentonite Clay, Activated Charcoal and Diatomaceous Earth are three of the many beneficial forms of “dirt” that can contribute to our health and well-being. We’re going to talk about how we use them and how they’ve helped us.

The best thing about each of these “dirts” is that they are very affordable,  incredibly powerful and effective for so many things!

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

From Wikipedia, Diatomaceous Earth is “a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 3 μm to more than 1 mm, but typically 10 to 200 μm.”

Why do we care about diatomaceous earth and how can we use it?

Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of diatoms, which are a type of unicellular micro-algae that are crucial to the Earth’s atmosphere. It is estimated that diatoms produce 20% of the world’s oxygen and that the shells of dead diatoms can be found half a mile deep at the bottom of the ocean!

How is Diatomaceous Earth Used?

Diatomaceous earth can be found in many of the products we use every day. Since it is a mild abrasive, it can be found in polishes, toothpastes and as a filler in cat litter for its odor and liquid-absorbing properties. It is also used in filtration products and insecticides, as well as a filler, absorbing agent and even an activator in blood clotting studies! I’ve even seen it used as a filler in foods such as commercial breads.

Commercially, diatomaceous earth has a lot of applications.
But personal use is where it gets really interesting.

I first learned about diatomaceous earth when I was researching parasites in the body and how to kill them.

A parasite is any organism that lives inside of and benefits
from another organism while causing the host harm.

Often we think of parasites as only something people in third world countries have to deal with. After all, we wear shoes and we don’t eat contaminated food, so we should be clean, right?

WRONG.

Everyone has parasites (we get them through food and water–they are impossible to avoid), and traditionally it was known that people needed to do some kind of parasite cleanse at least once a year to keep them in check.

These days we don’t even think about parasites, or even admit that we have them.

Unfortunately, when unchecked,
parasites can cause all kinds of health issues.

In fact, if you have any of the following health issues, parasites could be to blame:

  • Digestive problems
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Headaches or Migraines
  • Rashes (including eczema and psoriasis)
  • Anal itching
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Allergies
  • Poor concentration or lack of focus
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Stubborn belly fat
  • Post nasal drip
  • Anxiety
  • Grinding your teeth at night
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle pain, cramps or unexplained soreness
  • Irritability
  • And many more!

As you can see, parasites can cause a lot of different health problems.

If you’ve never done a parasite cleanse and you suffer from any of these issues, it’s very likely that parasites are to blame.

We won’t get into the different types of parasites we host, but you can learn more about that here.

Here’s where diatomaceous earth comes in very handy.

Diatomaceous earth particles are tiny: if you buy a bag you’ll notice it’s like a bag of dust (don’t breathe it!). These particles are also sharp, and have a cage-like structure. This allows diatomaceous earth to do several things when we consume it:

  • The abrasive nature makes it a great “scrubbing agent” for the intestinal walls. Over time, mucus builds up there and can make us sick, so periodically cleaning out this mucus is vital to good health.
  • The sharp edges physically cut any larger intestinal worms that are present, eventually killing them and allowing them to be expelled by the body
  • The cage-like structure works to trap smaller bacteria and toxins within it, to be flushed out by the body.

Diatomaceous earth makes for a very effective (and very affordable) parasite cleanse that is really easy to do.

So let’s get to work! First step, buy food-grade diatomaceous earth

I have been following a 90-day protocol that calls for diatomaceous earth to be taken once a day first thing in the morning, at least an hour before eating anything.

 

Here’s what I do: 

  1. Mix one heaping teaspoonful into a glass of water (don’t breathe it!).
  2. Drink the water (it tastes a little chalky, but there is no real flavor, good or bad)
  3. Drink plenty of water after that, and wait an hour before eating.
  4. Do this every morning for 10 days in a row, then take the rest of the month off.
  5. The following 2 months, do the same thing: 10 days on, 20 days off.When I first did this I took it more than 10 days (approximately 3 weeks of taking it every day in the morning) and I got a really bad sinus infection, which I think was due to detoxing “too much” or possibly the mucus being washed away just overloaded my body. Either way, from now on I’ll take the assigned breaks so that doesn’t happen again.

Herxheimer Reaction

If you’ve never done a parasite cleanse before, start slow.

Take a quarter or half a teaspoon the first day and work your way up. If you begin get a bad reaction: headaches, nausea or some other discomfort, you may be experiencing a Herxheimer Reaction.

If you do experience this, simply back off: lower the dose until the symptoms subside, and then work your way back up to a higher dose.

The most important thing to remember is that if you get a bad reaction, that means it’s working. It also means you have a lot of things to clean up (which you may already suspect) so quitting will not benefit you. Any short-term discomfort will be well worth the health you experience after the cleanse. 

To lessen or prevent a herxheimer reaction, I recommend using Bentonite Clay.

(Learn more about the benefits of bentonite clay here).

To prevent a herxheimer reaction, I take one teaspoon Redmond Clay in a glass of water (give it a couple minutes to sink to the bottom of the cup, then stir and drink it fast) before I go to bed at night. This will help clean up any toxins that the parasites are excreting when they are being killed by the diatomaceous earth (they get mad when they are dying)! 

Other Benefits of Consuming Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth contains elements that benefit us in so many more ways than just killing intestinal parasites! It contains a high concentration of silica (in fact, diatom cell walls are actually composed of biogenic silica). Silica is a powerful detoxifier, and can help the body:

  • Clean the blood
  • Improve heart health!
  • Neutralize free radicals
  • Supplement calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals
  • Kill viruses
  • Detox heavy metals such as aluminum
  • Prevent osteoporosis
  • Keep joints, tendons and ligaments healthy and pain-free
  • Grow hair faster and longer
  • Protect skin, teeth and nails
  • Maintain anti-aging benefits
  • Improve digestion
  • Improve liver and colon function
  • Improved energy
  • Improved immune function (get sick less often)!

Even if you don’t think you have any parasites (trust me, you do), there are plenty of reasons to consume diatomaceous earth on a regular basis! 

But wait…there’s more!

Diatomaceous earth has even MORE benefits and uses than we’ve already described. So why isn’t everyone talking about it and using it every day?

It’s cheap, effective and easy to use–so get some today!

Other Great Uses for Diatomaceous Earth

  • Dust your pets with it to keep fleas away
  • Use it in your garden as a fertilizer
  • Use it to purify drinking water
  • Put it in your detox bath to purify the water
  • Put in pet food to kill parasites
  • A non-toxic insecticide
  • Put a thin line of diatomaceous earth around the outside of windows and doorways to prevent insects from coming in the house
  • In homemade toothpaste as a mild abrasive
  • As a facial exfoliator

WARNING:

You may have noticed in a few places in this post that I warned to always be careful not to inhale diatomaceous earth.
Here’s why: The fine particles are very sharp and dust-like, so they become airborne easily, and if breathed into the lungs can cause damage. So just be careful not to breathe it–and don’t dust it in places where pets or babies will be sniffing around.

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

There is Hope for Infertility

Please welcome my friend and fellow blogger Rebekah Greco, of the blog Brothaholic. Rebekah suffered from infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy complications, but then discovered how she could heal her body and now has six healthy children! She has generously contributed this educational guest post about infertility and her experience, as well as ways you can heal and find hope to conceive! 

Infertility can be a topic that is treated a lot like money: it is mostly avoided,  but bringing it up can cause explosive reactions or grief.

It is a topic that involves feelings of despair, shame, and hopelessness. While it can be a painful topic, infertility is a condition that is pretty common in the US.

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

While pregnant  with my second daughter, I was told that I had the beginnings of both endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). After that birth, my husband and I packed up and moved to another state. I had a new doctor and a new set of eyes to look at more ultrasound results. At this point I was pregnant again. I was told the same thing: Endometriosis and PCOS.

My doctor told me that this would likely be my last birth, that my diseases would continue to escalate, and eventually I would need a hysterectomy. I was told to mentally prepare myself.

I miscarried another pregnancy after that appointment.

Just like the first miscarriage, it was emotionally devastating.

During these years I began to really research the causes of infertility, miscarriage. My search for answers has continued for another eight years.

I have discovered there are a lot of possible causes and various forms of infertility. For one person there may only be one or two reasons to experience infertility, for someone else it may be a combination of several reasons, and some never find a reason.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus.

It is an inflammatory condition that can cause cramping, pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. (See the sections below about true vitamin A and progesterone as they are related.)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome aka PCOS

PCOS is diagnosed when either one or both ovaries are present with regular abnormal cysts. It can cause delayed or infrequent ovulation and can be associated with later experiencing type II diabetes and heart disease. It is associated with low vitamin D levels. (1)

Low Progesterone

Low progesterone can occur during different times for women of childbearing age. Some women have low progesterone, ovulate, are able to conceive, but experience very early miscarriages or what is called chemical pregnancies.

Then there are women that produce enough progesterone to conceive and have pregnancies which go four weeks or more.

During early pregnancy, an ovary will have a beneficial ovarian cyst called the corpus luteum cyst that supplies progesterone to the baby until their own placenta takes over and begins to produce its own progesterone to sustain the pregnancy. This occurs around the twelve weeks gestation mark.

For some reason, in some women, the placenta never fully takes over progesterone production, and this causes miscarriage or it may produce progesterone on a more low side of normal.

The ones producing low, or on the low side of normal, may have frequent cramping and spotting. Low progesterone can cause a subchorionic hemorrhage behind where the placenta is implanted. Low progesterone can also cause stillbirth in late-term pregnancies.

Low progesterone is associated with estrogen dominance. (2)

Fallopian Tube Blockages

Fallopian tube blockages can cause the inability to conceive. They can also cause a tubal pregnancy where the baby begins to grow inside the fallopian tube and is most often a medical emergency.

The most common cause of fallopian tube blockages is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, aka PID, from sexually transmitted infections or surgical infections.

Blockages can also be associated with endometriosis. Unfortunately, the solution to this is not dietary/lifestyle changes. These changes could certainly help to prevent further damage, but a minor procedure using a laser can be used to clear out the tube or tubes.

For some types of blockages, a non-surgical procedure can be performed using a special catheter to unclog the blockage.  

Low in True Vitamin A

Being low in true vitamin A makes it difficult for the body to rid itself of excess estrogens. Excess estrogen can cause excessive bleeding and is associated with endometriosis. (3) Excess estrogen causes progesterone insufficiency.

We associate Vitamin A with eating orange vegetables or green leafy vegetables.

Unfortunately, converting beta carotene to true vitamin A is dependent on a few factors. Does the individual have the proper gut bacteria present to make the conversion, and are the vegetables consumed well-cooked and with saturated fat? If not, the conversion will not occur (4). 

(Note from Leah: You can boost your gut bacteria by taking a high-quality probiotic and real-food supplements. For more information on how to increase beneficial gut bacteria, see my post  Bacteria Boom: What Are Probiotics and Why are They So Popular?).

There is a way to bypass these issues by eating foods that have true vitamin A, like pastured eggs (the nutrients are in the yolks!), pastured butter or ghee, and organ meats from pastured animals. For the more squeamish, grass-fed desiccated liver pills can be found online. They come in easy-to-swallow capsules.

Reduced Cervical Mucus

In order to conceive, cervical mucus is needed to transport the sperm to the egg. In fact, noticing extra cervical mucus is typically a sign that the body is in its fertile phase.

When a woman does not produce enough cervical mucus, everything in her fertility may be in working order except for the cervical mucus production. This is when beta carotene from orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes becomes a shining star because it increases cervical mucus production, many times significantly (5).

A Regular Low Body Temperature

Hypothyroidism is associated with infertility.

Some cases of hypothyroidism are from the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Other cases are more easily fixed.

The thyroid gets stressed from not eating enough calories, excessive dieting, excessive exercise and in turn lowers adrenal function. Hashimoto’s on the other hand typically requires a gut healing protocol and testing for a chronic high viral load from things like Epstein Barr.

Removal of heavy metals may also be necessary. Other causes of a chronic low body temperature (below 98.6) can be fixed by reducing stress, sleeping more, eating enough calories, and avoiding excessive exercise.

While low-carb diets are beneficial to some women, for other women these diets can stress the thyroid excessively, affect the adrenals, and make conception difficult. (6)

Toxic Exposures

Toxic exposures to poisons can cause both the inability to conceive as well as miscarriages.

An example of this occured where I live in the Plano/Frisco area in North Texas. The water supply was poisoned with trihelomethane, which is a known female fertility disruptor. Who knows how long this had been going on and where else this is occuring.

Our family relies on a heavy duty gravity filter, like a Berkey, to reduce our toxic exposures. We do not drink or cook with water directly from the tap.

Early Ultrasound Exposure (before 13 weeks)

Unless a tubal pregnancy is a serious concern (extreme pain in the pelvis and sometimes bleeding caused by the baby growing and the tube rapidly expanding), early ultrasounds are mostly always unnecessary.

Ultrasounds have been shown to cause changes in tissue temperature and depending on where the baby is attached in the uterus and how long the ultrasound takes, it could be dangerous. We do not fully know the effects at this time. (7)

I personally had two miscarriages after an early ultrasound. I was on progesterone at the time, so low progesterone was not the cause. During the ultrasounds the babies appeared to be very healthy and active.

Though it’s possible the ultrasounds did not cause my miscarriages, for the rest of my pregnancies I have avoided early ultrasounds. This is merely anecdotal evidence, and is up to your discretion.

How I Healed

After the birth of my second child, I had begun to clean up my diet.

I have never been one to avoid eating regular fruits and vegetables, so that certainly was not my problem. I did begin to eat good fats, such as coconut oil, butter, real olive oil, avocado oil and meat fats.

I had no idea in years previous that consuming my regular salads with store bought salad dressings was causing chronic inflammation in my body and not allowing my body to properly convert sunlight exposure to vitamin D.

At that point, I rarely ate things like packaged cookies, crackers, or chips (which are mostly all loaded with cheap, rancid omega 6 oils), but until I became rigorous in avoiding high omega 6 vegetable oil products, I did not see results.

Another thing that helped my body convert sunlight to usable vitamin D was transdermal magnesium. I happened to have moved to a place by the ocean and had my feet in magnesium-rich ocean water regularly.

Those not by the ocean can get extra magnesium by using magnesium oil or magnesium lotion on their skin. Epsom salt baths are another great, inexpensive way to absorb more magnesium, as well as detoxify your body. Another way to get more magnesium is by switching from table salt to Celtic Sea Salt, which has more magnesium. I personally did both.

During this time, I began to do something else that helped my body get rid of mineral deposits in my reproductive organs, which was to consume more vitamin K2. This happened purely by accident, because I had discovered how to make Parmesan cheese crisps and ate them liberally.

Vitamin K2, not to be confused with vitamin K, helps the body to stay in balance. A lack of K2 may cause mineral deposits or plaque in the brain, arteries, kidneys and ovaries instead of in the bones and teeth. Foods with vitamin K2 are pastured egg yolks, grass-fed butter, cultured vegetables like cultured (not vinegared!) sauerkraut, hard cheeses, and natto.

I changed my fats, was out in the sun, had magnesium exposure, and ate parmesan cheese with wild abandon–and I got pregnant again. 

My doctor was not optimistic about this pregnancy, but when I had another ultrasound, there was no sign of endometriosis or PCOS! He was so confused that he went to my old records to re-verify that he was not mistaken. I have had multiple ultrasounds since then and it has never come back.

A Supplemental Band-Aid And More

I had to use progesterone to maintain my pregnancies starting around 6 weeks and lasting until 34 weeks.

I cleaned up my lifestyle increasingly with each consecutive pregnancy.

I began to avoid eating or drinking from plastics or cans because they contain chemicals that cause hormone disruption.

We began to filter our water with a Berkey. I did a gut healing regimen to heal from mold exposure that had sickened me in many of the places I had spent a lot of time, like places of employment, a rental home, and a home we owned that we discovered had mold. Mold can produce mycoestrogens, which can also disrupt normal hormone levels. (8)

Another thing I discovered to avoid was conventional beef.

Beef is one of the last meats on the market that allows excess estrogen unless it is labeled as hormone free. When the cows or steers are put on a feedlot, they are given an ear piercing that delivers estrogen to cause them to gain weight quickly. (9) At home we eat grassfed beef, but when we go out to eat, I now avoid beef.

In my quest to avoid estrogen producers, I also began to avoid soy (with the exception of organic fermented soy sauce or occasional natto) as soy is estrogenic. (10)

Furthermore, to avoid hormone disruption, I also changed all of my personal hygiene products to ones that avoid toxins and hormone disruptors.

 

My Real Food Success

My last pregnancy was different than all of my other pregnancies.

For the first time in my life, at six weeks of pregnancy, my progesterone levels were on the low side of the normal range. I was always below normal in week 6 and 7 in previous pregnancies (per the levels recommended by the Pope Paul IV Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, which differ from the levels presented as within normal range by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology).

Since I was on the low side of normal, I took progesterone again to prevent nuisance cramping.

As a note: I used supplemental high dose progesterone.

For one pregnancy, I had done the progesterone injections and had a terrible reaction: huge hives at the injection site.  For this reason, I do not recommend the injections because the carrier oils can cause the body to overreact with what appeared to be an autoimmune response.

The pills (Prometrium) are bioidentical, but my Dr felt they were not as effective as progesterone vaginal suppositories. To prevent pregnancy loss I took them for a few days until a compounding pharmacy could finish a prescription for the bioidentical progesterone suppositories. I did this a few times during times of bleeding while I waited for my prescription.

My Experience

What does all of this mean? At this point, if I were to conceive again, would I need supplemental progesterone? I do not know the answer to that, but I am really happy with the results I have gotten so far. I no longer have any signs of endometriosis or PCOS, my progesterone levels during early pregnancy with my last child were close to normal for the first time and I now have six healthy children.

–Written by Rebekah Greco of Brothaholic


Looking for ways to clean up your diet and lifestyle for reasons of disease prevention, infertility or so you can live a happy, healthy life for years to come?

Learn more here about how to cut processed food from your diet and how to navigate the confusing, muddy waters of health and wellness.

And if you are looking for great prices on clean, natural, organic groceries and staples, check out Simply Real Foods Market–with a low-price guarantee, no GMO food in stock, no membership fees and free shipping!

Sources:

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669857/

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3902220/

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4521362/

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10799382

5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6441332

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15007197

7) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.7863/jum.2008.27.4.541

8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036702/

9) http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1302&title=Implanting%20Beef%20Cattle

10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270274/

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Disclosure: many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

What is a Fast and Why Would I Want to Do One?

Have you ever tried fasting? 

If you are religious, you may have done a little bit of fasting for that reason in the past.

When they hear fasting, some people think of Lent, and “giving up something” for a set number of days before Easter. Maybe chocolate, TV or Facebook.

A true fast, however, involves giving up food completely for a set amount of time, usually at least 24 hours.

There are different types of fasts: absolute fasts (no food or liquid at all), water fasts (only water is consumed), juice fasts (calories from clear liquids such as juice, clear broth, or water can be consumed), Intermittent Fasting (narrowing your eating hours during the day to a window of 6-8 hours), and other variations.

I have done several juice fasts for durations ranging from 3-10 days, for different reasons each time (sometimes to focus on prayer or an event coming up, sometimes for health reasons), and each time I’ve found it a difficult but very rewarding experience.

Each time I come out of a fast of any duration, I feel physically cleansed, like a deep detox has taken place. One great benefit I have noticed is that junk food is no longer appealing to me at all.

It’s like my body has been re-booted.

When my computer gets sluggish or starts acting buggy, what do I do? I reboot, and most often that resolves the issue. And re-booting the computer periodically is best for optimal function and health of the computer.

So why don’t we think about doing the same thing with our bodies? What if we could re-set our bodies to a more natural, optimal state?

WE CAN.

Most religions incorporate fasting for a period of time to focus on a spiritual purpose: in order to pray for something or someone, to prepare for a ceremony or holiday, or just to focus on God and discipline our minds and bodies.

When I began researching fasting, I was surprised by all of the health benefits that result as well. And since I am a Christian, this serves to confirm to me that all of these different practices and guidelines that God has put in place are there for our ultimate good: spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I started my research on fasting several years ago when I read the book A Hunger for God by John Piper.

I knew the spiritual benefits of fasting, and was convinced it would be beneficial for that reason.

Then I began researching the health benefits and I was blown away. The first time I tried a ten-day fast I was living in China after college, and I wanted both the spiritual and physical benefits that fasting offered.

Without a doubt, fasting is not easy. It takes commitment and determination, and not even for the reasons you may think. The longer you do it, the harder it is, but the more benefits you receive.

Most recently I did a Master Cleanse fast about 5 years ago for 10 days. Master Cleanse is a modified juice fast in which you take only lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper in water several times per day for 10 days. The lemon juice serves to detox the liver and other organs and alkalinize the blood, the maple syrup provides some calories and minerals to help prevent severe hunger while still bypassing the digestive system, and the cayenne pepper is a blood purifier and helps ramp up the results.

Ketosis

The Keto Diet and Ketosis are all the rage right now, but what is ketosis and is it a good thing?

Ketosis is what happens when your body literally goes into starvation mode. There are no available sugars (glucose) for energy in your body to function, so your body releases ketones into the blood which triggers the burning of body fat for energy. If you go into ketosis under the right conditions, this state can be very healing and energizing to your body in the short term.

Ketosis can be beneficial on a short-term basis for plenty of reasons: bad bacteria, parasites and cancer cells all feed on glucose. If they are deprived of that energy source, they will die.

Ketones have also been shown to be an optimal fuel for the brain. Ketosis has been proven effective in treating numerous health issues, including various types of cancer, brain disorders and illnesses, as well as degenerative diseases such as diabetes and dementia.

The Keto Diet is popular right now, and a lot of people are jumping on board without really understanding how it works or the best way to go about it. Most people aren’t truly doing a keto diet at all, in fact. Since going into ketosis requires eating almost no carbs and 80% fat, 20% protein, this is not an easy diet to follow or sustain for very long. As a short-term cleanse or for the purposes of healing a major illness, I think going into ketosis is great; for a long-term diet, I think a more balanced approach is in order.

Reboot Your Body

Now that we understand a bit about why ketosis can be a good, short-term strategy for detoxing, healing, cleansing and losing weight, it’s easy to see why doing a fast for a few days that puts your body into ketosis for a short term has a similar effect.

When I fasted I did experience a clear mind, energy, and weight loss (weight loss results will vary for the duration of the fast, but rebooting your body makes it easier to lose weight for the long term as well).

The hardest part was not even being hungry: especially if doing a juice fast. I was surprised how hungry I was not.

The hardest part is mental. 

I wanted to eat. I smelled food or saw friends going to a restaurant and I felt sad. I just missed eating. 

There were times I reached for food without even thinking, and almost ate something out of habit.

There are also some detox symptoms that made me feel sluggish. Even though I wasn’t hungry, I knew that eating would make the discomfort stop. So I had to resist the urge and push through.

Want to Try?

I’ve always believed that fasting contributes to optimal health. Ideally, I would do several short fasts (1-3 days) each year and a longer fast (10 days) every few years.

But I’m not gonna lie. Fasting is hard. It’s hard to schedule 10 days where you can’t go out to eat. It’s hard to go to work every day or work out when you aren’t eating. It’s hard to maintain strong willpower for 10 days straight.

Recently I came across a few companies who offer products that claim to put people into ketosis quickly.

See, normally, even when on a true fast (not eating anything) it takes the body the better part of a week to go into ketosis.

With these new products, which contain ketone salts, the body is able to go into ketosis in hours or minutes, even if you are still eating.

Crazy, right? 

I’ve decided to try the products from a couple of different companies to see how they work for me. I will probably do a few livestream videos on the topic to map my progress and share my results.

But first, I decided to do a Keto Reboot. It’s a short-term fast (60 hours) that puts your body into ketosis during your first night’s sleep, and keeps it there for the next 60 hours. They provide a kit that moves you through the process. The kits contain a few supplements, as well as drinks that contain ketone salts (teas and drink mixes).

Since I’ve done a true fast, I am going to compare how this stacks up. There is a Facebook group of people who all do it at the same time, and they only sell the kits for a few days time so everyone does it together. 

Who’s in?

If you would like to do this 60 Hour Keto Reboot with me, check out the intro video and kit here and apply to join this Facebook group.

I would love to do this with as many people as possible–we can all share our results and chart our progress and how we feel as we’re doing it!

The next keto reboot event starts the evening of July 15 (Sunday night) and goes until the morning of July 18. It last 60 hours (2 full days and 3 nights).

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosure: many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

Step Away From the Can: Ditch Processed Food For Good

I grew up in the era of processed food.

  • Breakfast? Break out the milk, cereal and O.J.
  • Mid-morning snack? Grab a candy bar from the vending machine.
  • A little soup and sandwich for lunch: grab bread, American cheese slices, and a can of soup—all warmed in the microwave, of course.
  • Want cookies? Open a package in the cupboard. Grab some chips & canned salsa for an appetizer, and order pizza for dinner.
  • Dessert is ice cream from the store, or maybe a colorful pack of candy.

This was a way of life for my generation, and we didn’t know any other way.

If someone pointed out that everything I ate in a given day was processed in some way, I wouldn’t even care, much less know what that meant. Looking back, I cringe at the things I once ate, and I marvel that people still eat this way.

Whenever I venture into the grocery store there are inevitably people with carts loaded full of popular processed items: TV dinners, ice cream, packaged snacks, breakfast waffles and canned everything.

I remind myself that there was a time when I didn’t see anything wrong with these items either, and I realize how important  for us to educate ourselves about nutrition and the dangers of processed food.

My food education came in stages.

You could say I was privileged because my parents were very health-conscious. This gave me an interest in health and some knowledge that the food we eat does matter.

Still, I bought into the idea that food is food, and surely the government and food companies wouldn’t allow anything into the marketplace that was harmful for us.

…Right?…                                     ….Right?

Slowly, though, I started to see the world differently. I began to realize that huge billion-dollar food companies were just that: profit-centered businesses.

I began to realize that my health was my own responsibility.

Wake-Up Call

When I began this research, and became aware of the toxins and nutritional deficit in almost all of the “food” I was eating, I became disillusioned and depressed.

I felt betrayed by the system, abandoned in a world that didn’t care whether I lived or died, as long as they made some money from me while I was here.

I began to educate myself. I realized that all of the information I needed was out there; I just had to find it. And with the internet these days, if we have anything in abundance, it’s information. Knowledge is power, and I was about to empower myself to a whole new level.

Big Food is Not Our Friend

We’ve literally grown up on processed food, and most of us never thought twice about it. Cereal for breakfast, candy for snacks, and fast food burgers for dinner was just our way of life.

When I began to realize that the food industry was not in the business of keeping me healthy, I started to educate myself, and I discovered a lot of things that needed to change.

I was overwhelmed: so many things to change in my own diet, not to mention changing the mammoth food industry as a whole.

But all I could do was begin with myself and try to educate others so they could make their own intelligent choices. A friend introduced me to a book called Nourishing Traditions that totally changed the way I think about food, along with a few other books (like this one).

The first thing I began to eliminate from my diet was artificial sweeteners. The news was reporting studies that aspartame was definitively linked to cancer.

Wait, what?

I grew up drinking diet soda. Sugar is bad, right? But now the alternative is going to kill us.

Wonderful.

Next I saw studies of artificial colors linked to brain disorders such as autism and even tumors and cancer. I began studying the ingredients lists more carefully now, and started wondering what all of those other unpronounceable ingredients were.  Research into each ingredient resulted in some unsettling information.

Almost every ingredient was questionable at best.

This is where it began: my disillusionment with the food system in America.

Up until this point I trusted the food supply. I realized now that food corporations weren’t trustworthy: they were after the bottom line, no matter how many corners needed cutting. I realized that cheap food comes at a cost, but I still didn’t understand the extent of that cost.

After I began to see that virtually no processed foods were free of the dangerous ingredients I had learned about, I realized that getting rid of processed food altogether was really the only option. Like everyone else, I was used to the convenience of processed food, and frankly, I didn’t know how to cook food from scratch.

Could I do it?

Organic Food 101

Around the same time I had discovered organic food. At first I didn’t believe the hype: I thought it was just another way to mark up the price of the same food.

Then I tasted it.

Apples, chicken, milk, you name it! It was like I’d never had these foods before.

An apple tasted more like an apple, and chicken was more… flavorful! Rich! Delicious! Almost everything I tried tasted better and was more colorful and healthy-looking, and because of this I concluded that these types of food probably contained more nutrients as well.

After tasting the difference, I was convinced. So my first thought was to switch to organic processed food.

Genius, right?

Easy, awesome and healthy: win-win! And most of the offending ingredients I was trying to avoid were absent in the more expensive organic-certified packages. Score!

I also began following a number of health-living, organic-minded, do-it-yourself blogs; documenting various clever ways people have come up with to make their own versions of beloved, processed junk food.

After all, we grew up with it, and when you have a craving you can only resist it for so long. Fortunately, there are a lot of creative people out there who have already tested recipes for our favorite comfort and junk foods using real ingredients. Just try searching “paleo brownies,” “real food fudge,” or “grain free mac & cheese” to get the idea. If you want it, there is a healthy-substitution recipe out there that tastes good.

Enter Traditional Food

So here I am, fully committed to eating only organic food, and happily munching away on my organic crackers, cookies, pastas, breads, and cakes.

Enter Traditional Food.

I was introduced to a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which documents and supports an earlier work by Weston A. Price called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (both of these books are so good, and I highly recommend you read them).

These two books turned everything I knew on its head. They not only confirmed my unwilling belief that processed food (organic or not) was the devil, but they confirmed what I secretly knew instinctively, deep down: people have been thriving on their local, fresh, whole, traditional diets for millennia, and within a few years we industrialized the whole food system to make food cheaper, easier, and more convenient.

These “benefits” have a cost, however, and that cost is has become higher than anyone could have guessed. I started watching the growing number of documentaries showing the cover-ups in the industrial food system in America. Continue reading “Step Away From the Can: Ditch Processed Food For Good”

Clean up Your Cleaning Game! Cut Toxins and Save Money.

I have a dilemma.

I hate cleaning. There are just so many other productive things I can be doing with my time. I don’t want to live in a dirty house, however, and my husband is an absolute clean freak, so regular cleaning is a necessity.

Little Helper

Now that my son is 12, I have him contribute to the household chores. He washes the floor of the entire house at least once a week, helps with the dishes, and keeps his room and bathroom clean, among other various housecleaning activities.

Personally, I can be very sensitive to the fumes and scents of most cleaning products, and I definitely don’t want my son breathing those noxious chemicals in while he’s doing chores to earn his screen time.

Indoor Air Pollution

We all know that there are many toxins and pollutants in the air we breathe every day, and depending on where we live, pollution may become a health concern causing acute issues like asthma, migraines, and upper respiratory infections.

To avoid this, many of us keep the windows shut all the time so we’re not breathing all of the polluted outdoor air.

But did you know that it has been found that indoor air is even MORE polluted than outdoor air, no matter where you live?

This can result from a number of factors: from the fact that the air inside already comes from outside, to paint and carpet fumes, off-gassing from yoga mats, appliances and furniture, and a number of other toxic things that build up as a result of our everyday lives.

Even if you have air filters or purifiers in your house, the number of things polluting your indoor air would probably astound you.

One of the biggest causes of indoor air pollution may be surprising however: your cleaning products.

To cut down on my household air pollution, I’ve been searching for non-toxic cleaners, and have been surprised that what I have found is not only completely non-toxic, but also more environmentally friendly, and CHEAPER!

Of course the first place I looked was at the store in the “natural” section of the cleaner aisle, and I was dismayed to find those products not only more expensive than the conventional products, but the ingredients they contained didn’t seem that much better than what I was leaving behind.

Real Alternatives.

In the realm of non-toxic, all-natural living, vinegar, baking soda and essential oils are superstars, and for good reason: they disinfect and clean a lot of things, and not only are they safe they are actually edible, so there are no worries of toxins invading our spaces from those!

Vinegar. I love to use vinegar for lots of things:

  • Spray cleaning counter tops
  • Disinfecting surfaces
  • Cleaning urine out of furniture (vinegar neutralizes uric acid, so even if you can’t throw it in the washing machine, it will get the smell out!)
  • In place of a fabric softener in my laundry
  • As a rinse agent in my dishwasher!

Baking soda is also great:

  • Add it to a pot of boiling water to get stuck-on and burned-on food or stains off of your cookware
  • Clean glass and stainless steel to a bright shine
  • Make a paste and apply to ovens for deep cleaning
  • Adding as a cleaning agent to my laundry detergent
  • I even put it in my deodorant recipe for a super effective all-natural deodorant!

I also discovered the “magic erasers” can be good for cleaning soap scum and other build-up from sinks and tubs, but I did worry about what those sponges were made of and what it was leaving behind, because to be sure they are not natural, safe and non-toxic.

Revelation

Then one day I discovered microfiber cleaning cloths, and I fell in love. If you haven’t tried microfiber cloths for cleaning, you are in for a wonderful treat: using just water and these cloths, you can clean almost anything to a bright, streak-free shine. How economical is that?!

I’ve been using those for a couple of years, and then I came across a company that takes this concept to the next level.

Not only did they take the microfiber concept and run with it in the form of different types of microfiber cloths for different uses, they also wove antibacterial silver into the fabric, making the cloths themselves able to disinfect using only plain water!

This is huge. Now I am able to use simply water and these cloths to clean virtually any surface in my house, from countertops to floors, furniture, sinks and tubs, walls, and even my body! They even have a cloth that cleans fruits and vegetables! It virtually eliminates the need for cleaners or soaps of any kind, making this a great investment that pays for itself almost immediately.

Non-toxic living: the best of both worlds.

If you or anyone in your household suffers from asthma, allergies, have chemical sensitivities or have a compromised lung capacity for any reason, these cloths can literally save  your life! They clean allergens, dust and toxins from your home using just water, so they don’t add to the toxic load in your household, creating a “safe zone.”

The Benefits of Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Cleaning

I love to see stories like this one, where a mom was able to protect her micro-preemie baby by using these safe products to clean her home:

Even better, the quality of these cloths is so much better than what I was using before, and the company guarantees them to last at least 2 years from the time of purchase, so they are a phenomenal value.

Saving money and making my job easier. 

Now I don’t need to buy fruit and veggie washes, furniture polish, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, dusting sprays, tub or sink cleaners, toilet cleaners or even body wash! These kinds of consumable products take up a large chunk of every household budget, as we have to replace them all at least once per month. Imagine more than 24 months of not having to purchase any of those products, and the toxins that are eliminated from your household by not using them at all!

I am a believer in the efficacy of using these cloths to clean everything in my house, and I will never again be persuaded to waste money on expensive cleaners that only add a toxic load and a large footprint to my household. It’s the greenest of all possible choices!

Visit the Norwex website to peruse all of the zero-footprint, eco-friendly, completely non-toxic products they offer, from the super convenient dust mitt to the microfiber floor sweeper and mop, to the window cloth and polisher and the body cloth. There are so many great customized options to cater to every cleaning need in your house, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

You may never have to buy another cleaning solution again!

And, unbelievably, my dilemma is made easier, because using these cleaning cloths actually makes cleaning fun!

I tried out the dusting mitt on my super dust-prone entertainment center: it’s black glass so every bit of dust shows up and I have to dust it often! The dust mitt is soft and fluffy, and picks up tons of dust, and you activate it just by rubbing it together then wear it like a glove and wipe every surface.

Check out these before & afters!

 

Gross! All of that was on my furniture? I love that all I have to do is wipe everything down and then throw this mitt into the wash. It’s so easy! And did you know that those dusting sprays actually coat the furniture in a film that attracts dust? So using this means you can dust less often.

I’m sold. Check it out for yourself! 

Contact me by email (leah at freedomandcoffee dot com) or message me on Facebook to learn more about how to live your life toxin-free.

 

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

 

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

 

What is a Side Hustle? (And Why Everybody Needs One)

Have you ever looked at your paycheck and been frustrated with how much of it is taken out for taxes?

Have you ever thought what you could do with all of that extra money if you could actually keep more of what you are earning?

Have you ever wondered why you still have to pay more taxes in April, or why you’re not getting nearly enough money back on your tax returns?

You should get a side hustle.

A side hustle is any work you do “on the side.” Some examples are: cutting hair, mowing lawns, tutoring, or selling products. Side hustles are done on your own time for extra money.

You may already be involved in a side hustle and not even realize it.

But there’s more benefit to a side hustle than just earning a little extra cash.

Money you spend to fund your side hustle is tax deductible–AND some of your current expenses could also be tax deductible!

Did you know that you can also deduct expenses that you may not have thought of?

Some examples:

  • A portion of your rent or mortgage if you do any business or preparation for business at home
  • Mileage on your car if you ever use it to drive to and from places you do business or try to get new customers
  • Utilities
  • Internet bill
  • Cell phone bill

These kinds of expenses really add up. If you are paying these expenses anyway, and you can use a portion of them to deduct money from your taxable income, your tax bill not only shrinks, but you may bump yourself into a lower tax bracket.

We’re talking potentially thousands of dollars in tax refund money.

You might say:

“I don’t have time to do anything else.”

When you think about the tax savings, you can really see the potential: what if you were doing something that only took a few hours a week but saved you thousands of dollars on your taxes, PLUS the money you make doing what you’re doing?

Do you have time NOT to get a side hustle?

You might say:

“I don’t have money to invest in a new business.”

What if you could invest a couple hundred dollars and save a few thousand dollars on taxes, and make money on top of that? Do you have the money NOT to invest in that kind of side hustle? That’s a pretty great guaranteed return, no matter what business you are in.

Here is a simplified example of the kind of tax savings possible with a side hustle:

Say you make $65,000 per year. According to your tax bracket, you’d pay 25%, or $16,250 in taxes over the course of one year.

If you had a side hustle, let’s say you could write off $15,000 in expenses per year (car mileage, part of your rent or mortgage, a portion of your cell phone bill, purchases and supplies for your business, start-up costs. If you take a trip for your business, the tax-write off numbers could easily be higher).

It is acceptable to take a “loss” in a new business for up to the first 3 years of the business. If you don’t make any money on your business the first year, here is your new taxable income:

$65,000 – 15,000 =  $50,000 taxable income. 

Now you’ve bumped yourself into a lower tax bracket, which only taxes 12% of your income. Now you’re paying only 12% taxes on a total income of $50,000

$50,000 x 0.12 = $6000 taxes.

Originally you would have paid $16,250 and now you’re paying $6000. 

You just made $10,250!

And that’s without doing anything other than starting the business– and not including any money you make for your business.

These are all estimates and would vary based on your specific circumstances, but you can see how this works. 

How would an extra $10,250 per year change your life? 

Maybe you could pay off that credit card bill. 

Make several mortgage payments. 

Take a family vacation… or four. 

Get your Side Hustle On!

 If you don’t already have a side hustle, you should definitely get one. But what kind?

For anyone in search of the perfect side hustle for you, this is an excellent webinar that discusses all of the considerations to make when choosing your side hustle.

There are lots of things you can do, from tutoring to babysitting to mystery shopping. The way to really make money, however, is to sell things. And you need to find something to sell that people really want. If you sell something you love, you can even deduct some of the products you use on your taxes as well! After all, if you are selling something to people, you need to try it out so you can tell them how great it is!

The great thing about a side hustle is that it’s flexible, and it’s based on effort.

If you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t need to make a lot of money: perfect! Do a little here or there and make some extra cash while saving tons of money on your taxes.

If you dream of quitting your job and finally being financially free: PERFECT. You can totally do that.

A Slave to the J.O.B.

I love to talk about ways to save money, and even make a little money or bonuses doing things you already do–like shopping online.

Today I want to talk about something more powerful, though: residual income.

You know how….

you go to work and you get paid for the time you spend doing things they tell you to do?

 you can have a great job with lots of money and amazing benefits, but if you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid (or lose your job)?

 your boss (or your company) can make you do things you don’t want to do because they have the power to take away your livelihood?

 rumors in the company about layoffs keep you up at night, worried what you would do if you lost your job?

The big corporations we work for have us at the end of a rope, and there isn’t much we can do about it. We need the money they are paying so we will do whatever it takes to earn it.

  • Hour-long commute in rush hour traffic.
  • Long days in a boring office sitting at a computer.
  • Eye, back, neck strain from sitting at a desk all day.
  • Doing the same thing every day.
  • Longing for that next vacation.

What choice do we have? We have to earn a living. We have bills to pay, kids to feed, Christmas presents to buy!

Where does all the money go?

Enter: Side Hustle

What if you could reduce your tax burden while increasing your income?

Most of us have jobs. A side hustle is an income “on the side.” Working for yourself! There are so many advantages to working for yourself: flexible schedule, tax deductions and extra income!

You can make your own hours–you can work as much as you want to, and you don’t have to quit your current job (unless you want to…).

There are so many benefits to getting a side hustle, you may be wondering why you don’t have one yet.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding on a side hustle:

  • If you could do something you love and get paid for it, what would that be?
  • How much money would you want to make to reach your goals?
  • What is your biggest motivation for finding a side hustle?
  • How could your family’s life change if you made an extra $1000 a month? An extra $5,000? $10,000?
  • What personal goals could be pursued or attained if you had financial freedom?

 The answers to these questions may bring you closer to the side hustle that’s perfect for you.

Of course, I have a couple of favorites, for very good reasons. I’d love to discuss with you why I chose them and why they are working for me!

Learn a little bit more about the ones I’m involved with here:

(Try it for yourself: get FREE samples!)

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! 

I love this webinar that goes through all of the things to consider when deciding on your perfect side hustle. Watch it here:

 What do you think? What kind of side hustle would suit you best?

 If you want some suggestions or tips on finding a side hustle, email me at leah@freedomandcoffee.com or message me on Facebook and we’ll discuss your goals and how you can achieve them!

Contact me by email (leah at freedomandcoffee dot com) or message me on Facebook to learn more about the side hustles I’m involved in and the side hustle that is perfect for you.

New to Freedom & Coffee? Start here.

Disclosures:

Many of the product links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from any purchase. I only recommend products that I love and this is at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission with your clicks!

I am not an accountant, so please talk with your accountant or tax preparer for more details on the tax deductions for which you qualify. 

Bacteria Boom: What are Probiotics and Why are They So Popular?

Over the past couple of years, I noticed that the pastor at my church has had some health issues which made him him sometimes miss meetings, stay home sick from church on Sundays every once in awhile, and generally just not feel very well.

Thinking back, I remembered about two years ago he had a big infection and was hospitalized for several weeks. During that time, he was put on an aggressive course of antibiotics (as most sick people are, whether or not they have a bacterial infection).

I don’t know the details of this original illness, but I do know that he’s been suffering from digestive issues ever since, which have increasingly tormented him and prevented sleep at night, interfering with his work and ministry at church.

One day after hearing he was again missing meetings, I emailed him and told him my suspicion: the course of antibiotics resulting from his illness two years ago had wrecked his gut and had precipitated most (if not all all) of his current issues.

I recommended he try taking some high-quality probiotics.

I shared some articles and research, then gave some recommendations of how to choose a few good ones.

I told him to start slow (because there can be an adjustment period as “bad bacteria” die off and “good bacteria” begin to populate the gut–but nothing worse than the symptoms he was already experiencing).

Two weeks later my pastor approached me and said, “Leah, I’m a new man! I feel so much better! I’m sleeping better and I have energy and I don’t feel sick any more!”

Word began to spread at church, and now I have people approaching me with questions about their health all the time. I’m happy to pass along any knowledge and resources I have, because the information is all out there!

What are Probiotics? 

Probiotics are “beneficial” bacteria. In modern society, we’ve been conditioned to see all bacteria bad, foreign things that will make us sick, but this is simply not true. There are millions of bacteria that live with humans and animals in a symbiotic relationship: they benefit us, and we benefit them.

Why do We Need Them?

We don’t know the full scope of the symbiotic role that beneficial bacteria play, but we are beginning to understand how vital they are to our existence.

  • It is estimated that human bodies are made up of approximately 90% bacteria by volume. These microbes are everywhere: on our skin, in our sinuses, ears, mouths, in our guts… literally everywhere. These microbes do a good job of helping to regulate our bodies and keep them functioning properly, and in return, we feed them with the food that we eat or byproducts from our bodies, like skin cells and sweat.
  • A huge variety of our bacteria live in our digestive systems, or our “guts,” and researchers are discovering that at least 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut. Our guts have a huge influence on our overall health: both physical and mental.
  • Bacteria do a lot of work in our bodies, including helping to regulate hormones that control fat stores, skin issues, auto-immune response, fertility, available energy, and overall well-being.
  • Balance is key. We refer to bacteria as “good” and “bad” but really we just need a balance of the bacteria in our guts. The fact is, we all have “bad” bacteria such as E. Coli in our bodies, but if these bacteria don’t overrun our systems or multiply too quickly, they are not a threat. Even “good” bacteria can cause problems if there’s too much of it. Our bodies generally do a good job of regulating the population of bacteria, as long as we ensure we have a good variety of bacteria for our bodies to work with. As long as we have enough “good bacteria,” or probiotics, in our guts, they will fight off the “baddies” and keep our bodies balanced and healthy.

How Can I Get Them?

You may have noticed an array of probiotic supplements in your local health food store (and how expensive they are).

The good news is that you don’t have to buy a lot of expensive supplements to get a good balance of bacteria in your body. In fact, different fermented foods carry a large population of beneficial bacteria, and they are really easy to make, and to eat.

Yogurt is the most popular and widely-known source of probiotics, but not all yogurts are created equal.

Many of the yogurts on the store shelves are full of sugar (which feeds bad bacteria) and a lot of them even have harmful additives like carageenan (which has been found to cause cancer) to keep them refrigerator shelf-stable for weeks at a time.

Store bought yogurts can be a source of probiotics, but you need to know what to look for, and they shouldn’t constitute your only source of probiotics.

  • Look for “live and active cultures” on the container, and check the ingredients for which specific cultures are contained.
  • Find out if the yogurt has been pasteurized. Most yogurt is made with pasteurized milk, but even after it’s been turned into yogurt is then pasteurized again. Pasteurization will kill the beneficial bacteria that were necessary to make the yogurt, so they won’t benefit you.
  • Get organic. Yogurt is made from milk, and if the milk is not organic it will contain antibiotics and hormones that were given to the cows. These substances are detrimental and even toxic to our bodies, and can cause hormonal imbalances and antibiotic resistance in the long run.
  • Get plain and unflavored yogurt. You may not like the taste of plain yogurt, but you can add fresh fruit and honey for flavoring, instead of consuming a lot of extra added sugars.
  • Get whole milk yogurt. Studies have shown that low-fat dairy products do not contribute to weight loss and may actually cause weight gain. The full-fat options allow your body to more efficiently process the beneficial fat-soluble vitamins in the yogurt, and the fat will make you feel full longer, so you’ll eat less overall.
  • Check the ingredients. In addition to checking for live and active cultures, make sure your yogurt doesn’t have any additives like carageenan, sugar, color, or anything else. Ideally, it should just be milk and a culture.

Did you know? 

Yogurt is so easy to make. Yogurt makers are inexpensive and make it easier, but you don’t even need one to make yogurt. My favorite yogurt is clay-batch yogurt, which I make in VitaClay.

VitaClay has a built-in yogurt maker in most models.
VitaClay Personal Yogurt Maker and Slow Cooker

All you have to do is load in milk and a yogurt culture and press “yogurt” and a few hours later you’ll have the best yogurt you’ve ever tasted, and a starter batch to make more!

Kefir is a milk-based probiotic beverage that is also known as “drinkable yogurt.” Kefir often contains different bacteria than yogurt, and sometimes at greater quantities per serving. If you’re buying kefir from the store, apply the same checks as listed above for yogurt. Add kefir to smoothies or drink it plain–it tastes like buttermilk.

Incidentally, my father suffered from terrible seasonal allergies for over 60 years. My mother read about kefir and started making it at home, and he hasn’t had a problem with allergies since!

Homemade Sauerkraut: cheap, easy to make, and loaded with probiotics!

Other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchee, natto and miso contain other probiotics that are beneficial, and they are delicious additions to your diet. Sauerkraut is super easy to make, and two ounces of homemade sauerkraut contains exponentially more beneficial bacteria than a whole bottle of store-bought probiotics, for pennies on the dollar!

Chop up the ingredients for salsa, then just add a little whey and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days–you won’t believe the healthy zing!

Additionally, lots of things can be fermented: I’ve fermented homemade salsa, which was super easy and so delicious! I’ve also seen recipes for fermented carrots, onions, cucumbers (pickles!), and even guacamole! The possibilities are endless! (Wild Fermentation link)

If you don’t want to make these fermented foods at home and would rather buy them, follow the rules listed under yogurt, and make sure they have live and active cultures (which is, after all, the whole point). Also watch for additives such as MSG and citric acid, in addition to those listed for yogurt.

Probiotic Supplements

Overall, I think that many probiotic supplements are a waste of money. As discussed above, the probiotics in just one serving of homemade sauerkraut can contain more good bacteria than an entire bottle of store-bought bacteria! This generally applies to lacto-based bacteria, however, which are the type contained in yogurt and most fermented foods. These bacteria are good, and you should definitely get them. If you absolutely don’t want to ferment anything at home, go ahead and buy them.

A few great brands to consider are: 

I recommend going to a health food store with high-quality probiotics rather than trusting a drugstore brand.

AND! Check out this really great database that can help you determine which probiotic strains may help you the most based on your current symptoms and struggles!

Look for a bottle that lists the type of bacteria included and a guaranteed number of live bacteria per serving (usually listed in the billions CFU). The higher the number, the more bacteria it will contain (and very high numbers will require a slower breaking in period, which you can discuss with the worker at the health food store). These higher-quality probiotics will cost more, but this is a classic case of getting what you pay for, and what we want here is results.

Probioitics I buy

My one exception to the “store-bought probiotics are a waste of money” rule is in the category of soil-based probiotics. Here’s why: the lacto-based probiotics like those found in yogurt, sauerkraut and other ferments are so easy to make and so delicious to eat that there’s no reason to pay expensive store prices for a shelf-stable inferior product.

Soil-based probiotics, however, are different strains that have a different effect in our bodies: they go deeper into the gut and contribute differently to immunity. So we need both, but soil-based are found in soil, as the name implies.

In antiquity, people got a good amount of soil in their diets from digging up veggies and eating them.

These days, I don’t trust the soil as far as I can throw it. It’s been compromised with pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceutical drugs, and all manner of other toxins from our waste water and runoff. Even if I were inclined to eat soil (I’m not), it would probably do much more harm than good.

So when it comes to soil-based probiotics, I will purchase them from a reputable company that can guarantee their purity, quality, and effectiveness–even if they are expensive. I’ve listed below a few soil-based probiotics on which I have done research. I trust them to deliver a safe, effective, quality product.

What About Prebioitics?

Prebiotics are the “food” for beneficial gut bacteria that already live in our guts. And since not all gut bacteria can be supplemented with probiotics, it’s a great idea to get some good prebiotics in your diet as well.

As a matter of fact, you probably already do get some prebiotics, as they are often soluble fiber found in fruit.

There are also symbiotic prebiotic-probiotic supplements that you may find beneficial, especially if you have recently taken antibiotics or had some digestive problems. Here’s one I like because it includes a prebiotic in drink form, a probiotic with several different types of strains, and a real food multi supplement. 

One Last Thing

Since probiotics by their nature will multiply in our guts, it is unnecessary to take the same one every day of your life (though it is a great practice to ensure you are always getting plenty of prebiotics so your gut population can flourish). In fact, it’s better to switch them up, comparing the ingredients to ensure you get different bacteria with each different supplement.

Once a bacteria colony is established in your gut, it will likely be there awhile, so after you’ve taken one for a month or two, you can move on to a different one with different strains. You may want to double back to one you like in a few months or in a year to make sure that colony is still thriving, but overall, your body will maintain those bacteria once they are established (until they are killed off by antibiotics or toxins in the diet).

Read this article about how different strains may help different health issues.

Resources:

Humans: 10% Human and 90% Bacterial
Our Bodies, Our Health, Our Gut Bacteria  (Cornell)
5 Quick Tips For Healthy Guts And A Healthier Immune System
The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet (Johns Hopkins)
Gut microbes closely linked to proper immune function, other health issues
How to Repair Your Gut After Antibiotics
Why Antibiotics Today Could Threaten Your Life Tomorrow
Antibiotic overuse: Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria
Is Carrageenan Safe?

 

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