By Natural Advocate | April 27, 2012 - 9:36 am - Posted in Foods


Stevia Sweetener


In this day and age, artificial sweeteners are used in so many foods, gums, drinks and candies that it’s hard to know if you’re eating real sugar or some sort of sugar alcohol or aspartame.  Artificial sweeteners are even used in gums that are not “sugar free”. They are also used in some ice creams, candies, pastries and more as a sort of binding agent.

Personally, I believe that stevia is the healthiest alternative, and I use a stevia sweetening alternative. It’s lower in sugars and carbs, and adds a nice sweet, non-chemical taste to you food or coffee.  It’s also plant derived, and has no known negative effects on the body.

So, if you’re trying really hard to avoid these types of sweeteners, what you have to do is really become a die-hard label reader. Look for any ingredient that ends in the three letters “tol”. So, malitol and sorbitol are two sweeteners that would immediately come to mind.

What’s wrong with artificial sweeteners?

Well, there’s a lot wrong with them. Not only are many of them implicated cancers of various kinds, but they have also been implicated in weight gain. That’s right, the exact thing that people who typically use artificial sweeteners want to avoid is the very thing it may contribute to.

Why would artificial sweeteners make you put on weight? Well, many scientists believe that these fake sugars actually make your body crave more sugar and more carbohydrates. It’s almost better just to have the sugar because your body knows what it wants, and when it doesn’t get the thing it craves, it rebels against us and makes you want it more.

In other words, those artificial sweeteners aren’t faking out your super smart body. No sir, your body knows what real sugar is, and it processes it differently. It has different effects on the brain and the blood sugar, and your body definitely can tell the difference when you’re trying to pull a fast one.

Fake sweeteners also have been linked to a host of health issues.  This includes migraines, allergic reactions, rashes, headaches, irritability, gastrointestinal distress, stomach aches and more.  Who wants all this in exchange for a little bit of something that doesn’t come close to substituting for what we really want – good ol’ fashioned sugar.

If you want a slightly more healthy version, try unrefined “raw” sugar. This is slightly healthier simply because it is not as processed.  You can also try to only fortify your diet with natural sugars from whole foods like fruits. This way, the fiber and vitamins in the fruit slow the digestion of the sugar and don’t cause a mess with your blood sugar levels.

By Natural Advocate | April 24, 2012 - 4:22 pm - Posted in Natural Depression & Anxiety Relief

A new link has been found between people who report feeling depressed often, with feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy, and sleep disorders that tend to manifest in incomplete sleep cycle and sleep that is simply not restorative enough for optimal brain and emotional function.

This really isn’t surprising if you know a little about how important sleep is to the human body. It is estimated that a person only needs to go about 48 hours without any sleep before their mind begins to completely shut down and they experience psychosis and delusion.

Sleep deprivation studies have shown devastating effects on the human brain. Not only that, on the emotion center of the brain. People do not have as solid of a control over their emotions or their mood when they are deprived of a good nights sleep. I can see this even in myself.

If I’ve had a particularly bad night of sleep, I tend to be overly emotional and I also tend to get angry too easily. I also cannot function cognitively as well – it’s like an induced form of ADD for me where I can’t focus on one thing very long without copious amounts of stimulants like coffee and tea.

The link between sleep disorders and depression was found to be even more consistent in women than it was in men. The reason for this is not known.  Women do tend to at least report depression more often than men, so maybe it’s simply that more women than men tend to suffer from depression and related issues than men do.

There is also the hormonal aspect. I can tell you that there are certain points in my cycle where I cannot get a good nights sleep to save myself.  It’s almost like I have so much pent up anxiety that my sleep just won’t come in complete waves.

Estrogen levels can definitely impact your sleep as well as your mood, so it is no surprise. Also, again taking an observation from my own life, my husband tends to fall asleep like a baby every night almost as soon as his head hits the pillow. I on the other hand, take a while to fall asleep and tend to have bouts of insomnia much more than my husband does.

Maybe us women are so goal oriented and such worriers that we can’t slow down enough to get the right kind of sleep.  Maybe we should take it easy on ourselves!

By Natural Advocate | April 21, 2012 - 12:18 pm - Posted in Natural Depression & Anxiety Relief

Ok, so I told you a few weeks ago about how I had purchased a tincture, which is an alcohol solution of an herb or active extract, of the anxiety and stress reducing herb passion flower.  Passion flower is known, among other herbs for depression and anxiety, for producing a mild feeling of well being, enhancing the mood and helping to relax freyed nerves and anxieties that often come up in life.

I wanted something to simply “take the edge off” a bit. I wasn’t looking for something that would have serious relaxation or put me to sleep, and passion flower seems to help in that regard.  I bought the Herb Pharm brand of passion flower extract.

One thing I can tell you right off the bat is that it tastes absolutely horrible. To the point where I plug my nose when I’m putting the dropper full down my throat. I never do more than one full small dropper full simply because the taste makes me want to toss my cookies.

It may be the alcohol tincture that makes it taste so pungent, but the taste is undeniably gag worthy.  The effect is very mild, but identifiable. I’ll take some and it kicks in pretty quickly to help mildly put me at ease. I don’t notice anything dramatic in my stress levels, so I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is the herbal version of Xanax or anything, but it does take the edge off somewhat pretty quickly.

Another thing I can tell you, at least about my experience with this passion flower extract, is that it actually has given me diarrhea a few times. I’ve noticed that sometimes the next day I’ll start to have issues with my digestion and elimination. I noticed that it came on very quickly.

I couldn’t make the connection to the passion flower until it happened a third time. I cut my dosage back and that seemed to work at eliminating the problem.  I do have a very sensitive stomach, and sometimes I will react to new supplements this way no matter what they are, so that might be the explanation.

Also, it could simply be the alcohol that is used to make the mixture that affects me and not the herb itself.

All in all, my experience with passion flower is a pretty good one. It’s no miracle worker, and it won’t make you feel like you’re on top of the world, but it does seem to help relax anxieties and ease the feeling of stress, tightness in the chest, and the mind racing somewhat.

By Natural Advocate | April 18, 2012 - 11:52 am - Posted in Herbal Supplements, Natural and Herbal Treatments

There was a time when I knew quite a bit about the herb called the “yellow root” goldenseal. It had quite a reputation after all in my alma mater college town, home of Kent State University. It attended school there for a few years. Never graduated from there though. I was too busy partying hard and blossoming into a woman and screwing up to pay much attention to school.

I’ll tell you what though. I will NEVER have the kind of fun I had back in college ever again in my life. There is just a certain freedom, a certain mind set that you have at this exciting time in your life, and a sort of innocence and altruism that you can never quite get back to when you’re older.

I digress.  Goldenseal had quite the reputation around town because it was often scouted for college kids who had to take a pee (urine) test and pass it for the drug cannabis – AKA blunt, aka pot, aka marijuana.

Goldenseal has the reputation of cleansing out your system and helping remove the chemicals that would show up in your urine if you had smoked pot in the past 48 hours or so.  Read some of our past stories about marijuana : Medical Marijuana Community Up in Arms

But there was always some doubt and controversy about how long ago the pot smoking had to be in order for the goldenseal to be effective in flushing the stuff out of your system. I’ll still never know – no one seemed to know for sure back then either. Back then, there was really no internet – not like it is today, that’s for sure, so all we had to rely on was word of mouth and the good sense of our fellow potheads.

There are other uses for goldenseal though. This root is often used to help cure the common cold faster and bone up the immune system as well.  One of the reasons for this may be that if helps flush the system of toxins and so forth so much more quickly than it would normally flush from your body.

Goldenseal also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well. It can be used to clean sores, wounds, and some minor skin conditions. It is even used occasionally to treat cases of diarrhea in people.

So you see, goldenseal isn’t just the “pot flushing herb” any more. It has many other uses beyond the pre-urine test dash for safety!

By Natural Advocate | April 15, 2012 - 5:09 pm - Posted in Alternative Therapies

I just got back from my massage. It’s been a while, and my muscles were pretty tense. I also tend to use these sessions as sort of a meditation of sorts for myself. They are the only time when I feel OK about not doing much of anythng productive. It’s kind of a woman thing – I know most women feel this way. We are all workaholics at heart in some way!

Getting a massage for me is really what helps me keep sane sometimes. My husband and I are on a strict budget and we don’t really take real vacations other than to go see family – and I’m sorry, that’s just not the same thing as a real vacation.  So, massages are one of my few luxuries that I allow myself to partake in.

I get them at a Massage Envy, which is a chain that offers professional grade massages for a very reasonable monthly fee. I’ve thought about cancelling before when we really could use the money, but then I go get what I think will be my last one, and I can’t bear to part with this precious gift that I give myself once a month.

Therefore, I scrimp and save in other ways to pay for them. They not only relax me and relieve pent up anxiety, but they free my muscles from an entire week of sitting at my desk job. Sitting down all day really does a number on your body. It compresses your spinal disks and also compresses your muscle tissue.

The inaction makes your muscles stiff and not as limber. This is why getting up periodically is so important. I use the massage once a month as a sort of supplement to my exercise program since I do sit for long periods of time at my day job.

Massage has also been shown to help relieve PMS symptoms, to help you sleep better, to improve your immune system, and to lighten the load of depression and other mood disorders.  Massage can also help you manage pain, as we posted in an earlier story on this powerful touch therapy.  Oh yeah, and it feels like heaven as well!

The power of touch is extremely strong. At least that is what I’ve found in my own life.  It has a very healing power, as demonstrated by the practice of reike. After all, there are reasons why human children (and many animals as well) do not flourish and can actually die if they are deprived of contact for a while.

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