Natural Health and Wellness

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killer [Book Review]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 by Cassandra B.

Grain BrainThere is a lot of research talking about how carbohydrates—wheat, flour, sugar—are bad for you. Bad for your waistline, bad for your energy levels, bad for your heart health… the list goes on and on. What many people don’t talk about, however, is the relation between carbohydrates and your brain. Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter, MD, discusses that very correlation with detailed evidence and descriptions supporting the hypothesis that carbs are destroying your brain.

Dr. Perlmutter gets to the point right from the start of the book. “Brain disease can be largely prevented through the choices you make in life,” he states in the introduction of Grain Brain. His book is filled with studies and scientific evidence that states that not only are carbs bad for your body and weight, but they are bad for your brain. His approach is strict and brutal: cut out all carbs (including supposedly healthy whole grains) to save your brain.

Our modern society has moved from using food to maintain a healthy body to using medicine to fix a broken one. Not only is this thinking flawed, it’s also not effective, as we are encountering more and more illnesses that cannot be fixed or cured, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Not only that, but the foods we consume today, including grains, are not the same foods that we consumed even 70 years ago. Therefore, our genes are ill-equipped to process things like flour, sugar, low-fat foods... basically, anything processed.

Most of what we are told to eat, according to Dr. Perlmutter, is grossly flawed. He maintains that our bodies thrive when given good fats, and that humans actually don’t need carbs to survive. Everything that we’ve learned about fat being bad, needing statin drugs to regular cholesterol…Dr. Perlmutter states that this way of thinking is exactly what has diminished our health and our brains.

Our brains need fat, and cholesterol, to survive. Take that fat out of our diets and the brain muscle starts losing its strength. Dr. Perlmutter describes many patients he has seen who have come to him with various brain-related issues who, after cutting carbs out of their diets, have seen a dramatic change in their bodies.

This book is ideal for those who have an interest in maintaining a healthy body, fixing a “broken” one with diet and healthy habits, or those who are curious about what carbohydrates do to your brain. Dr. Perlmutter is extensive and thorough in his explanations, but does a great job of explaining himself without tons of scientific jargon. He also outlines a 4 week plan of action to start moving your body in a healthy direction, complete with recipes at the end of the book.

So, what do you think? Are you avoiding carbs? What's the greatest challenge you face in maintaining a really healthy diet? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

My 30-Day Gluten Free Experiment Helped Me Find A New Favorite: Gluten Free Pasta!

Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Cassandra B.

I’ve grown up having headaches for most of my life. Recently, it was suggested that I may have a gluten intolerance, which may lead to headaches. Willing to try pretty much anything to get rid of them, I decided to give up gluten for a month, starting on October 1st, to see if there was any merit to this claim. By “give up gluten,” I don’t mean that anything that might have a smidge of gluten was off-limits—I may have intolerance, not an allergy. I’m basically just staying away from breads, pastas, cereals, and most baked goods (which can be a challenge in our birthday treat-filled office).

Honestly, the past week has not been too hard. I had one slip up that was due to my forgetfulness, not because there weren’t other options available. But I’ve been mostly trying to eat whole foods rather than a bunch of normally gluten-filled substitutes. However, this past weekend was my mom’s birthday dinner, and she requested homemade spaghetti and meatballs. Since I didn’t want to miss out on the deliciousness myself, I decided to try some gluten free spaghetti noodles (just for me—I let the others have the regular kind since I wasn’t sure how these were going to turn out). And then some new gluten free products came across my desk. Schar has several gluten free options, including spaghetti and penne noodles, so I decided to give them a shot.

I’ve tried brown rice noodles before, and never was too happy with them. I wanted hearty spaghetti noodles that would hold up well under tomato sauce and meatballs. These noodles were hands down the best gluten free noodles I’ve had. They said to boil for 11 minutes, and I was a little worried since I got distracted and wasn’t keeping track of the time, but I did a noodle test to check the doneness, and they were perfect! Brown rice noodles tend to stick together a lot and turn mushy—these did neither. I drained them and added a little olive oil to them, and even yesterday they held up for some leftovers! I was impressed!

So far this week, this is the only “gluten free” alternative/substitute type product I’ve really tried, but I’ll keep you posted on others if the opportunity comes up!

Do you have any favorite gluten free products that you like better than others? Have you had better luck than I have with brown rice pasta?

Help! Which Product Should I Use On My Dry Skin? An SHP-Insider Tests New Products to Find the Answer

Monday, April 1, 2013 by Cassandra B.

North Dakota winters are among the coldest and driest winters in the US. Unfortunately, I have extremely dry skin, which makes finding good quality products made with beneficial ingredients a challenge. Fortunately, I work at an awesome company that carries a wide variety of skincare products made with only the best ingredients. I thought I’d give my skin some pampering this winter and try a few out.

Organic Manuka Natural Lipcare
This lip balm is made with manuka honey, shea and cocoa butter, and olive oil—all great moisturizing ingredients. I loved how smooth my lips felt, and I didn’t need to use it as often as I use regular lip balms. It was a little firm if I left it in the cold, but at room temperature it would glide on smoothly.

Face Contour Mask with Manuka Honey & Bee Venom

I’ll be honest; I was a little apprehensive about giving this one a try. It has some pretty interesting ingredients, all of which work to nourish and intensely moisturize your face, and is free of those gross ingredients like SLS and petroleum. The interesting ingredient is bee venom. It does state on the container that if you are allergic to bees, to not use this mask. Since I’ve never been stung by a bee, trying this out was a bit of an adventure. I tested a very, very small amount on my arm, and then on my face, and after checking to make sure there was no reaction, decided to give it a go on my face. It’s a smooth and subtly scented cream that gave my face a slight tingle after a few minutes. And when I rinsed it off, I was delighted to find that my skin felt moisturized! In fact, I normally use a lot of night face cream before bed, but I decided to try without, and then next morning my face still felt great! You can also use this mask as a night cream if you don’t have time for a mask.

Sea Buckthorn Nourishing Facial Cream
I used this facial cream in the morning under my makeup. It went on very lightly and had a fresh citrus scent. I could use a little dab to go a long way. My face certainly felt moisturized during the day. 

Triple Moisture Body Lotion Mandarin Orange
The mandarin orange scent of this lotion was the perfect way to start the day in the middle of a dreary winter. My legs and arms get especially dry, and this lotion was thick enough that I didn’t need to use much more than a quarter-sized dollop for my legs. And the great part was, this lotion made my skin feel smooth until the next morning!

Raw Wild Crafted Shea Butter
Elbows, knees and feet can get pretty dry and even cracked at any time of the year, but winter especially. This wild crafted and unrefined shea butter was a life-saver for my feet, mostly my heels. After showering I would just apply some to the heels of my feet (make sure you don’t walk around hard floors barefoot after putting this on your feet though) and slide some sock on, and I noticed they were much more smooth after even a week!

Manuka Honey & Tea Tree Soap
This clean, fresh soap was soothing and moisturizing on my skin, even after rinsing. The tea tree oil gave it a fresh scent and the manuka honey made it a smoothing and hydrating treat for my skin.


I would recommend any and all of these products to anyone with very dry skin (or even normal/dry skin).

Is Berberine a Fix for Common Travel Ailment?

Sunday, February 17, 2013 by Cassandra B.

While the holiday travel season is finally over, spring break travel is just around the corner.  Warm beaches, sunny weather…and traveler’s intestinal issues. Enter berberine.

Berberine is an alkaloid nutrient that comes from the roots of many herbal plants such as goldenseal, Oregon grape and barberry. Used in traditional Chinese practices, berberine was also used as a yellow dye.

While there are several studies demonstrating the use of berberine for various antimicrobial activities against many viruses and bacteria, it’s mostly known for its ability to be effective against diarrheas caused by traveler’s diarrhea (E. coli) and food poisoning. Berberine is able to prevent bacteria that cause small intestine bacterial growth from sticking to intestinal walls.

Studies suggest using berberine-containing herbs for one week before traveling, during traveling and one week after traveling to better protect your intestine from harmful bacteria.