EATING AND YOU: How what you eat can affect your mood

Did you realize that what you are eating may be responsible for how you feel? The amount of joy we feel in our life is mostly allotted through our consumption of protein. Why? Because our emotions are a product the varying levels of hormones and neurotransmitters, which are made up of amino acids—the building blocks of protein. That means we must consume enough of the right sources of protein for these chemical messengers to perform harmoniously. In addition, vitamins and minerals are essential to the regulation of these chemical messengers.

We believe some people are naturally positive, up-beat, or relaxed people, while we notice that others are inherently negative, irritable, anxious, stressed, or sensitive. We can categorize emotions into categories of good moods and bad moods. Certified nutritional therapist Julia Ross in, The Mood Cure, asserts that amino acids are our most effective weapons for fighting bad moods. Emotion generators in your brain are called neurotransmitters. A brain well-stocked in neurotransmitters produces “true emotions”—or good moods. Conversely, a brain deficient in certain neurotransmitters produces “false or defective moods”, and Ross suggests that “false moods” are largely a product of stress and insufficient nutrition.

Think of things that put you in a good mood. It is scientifically known that sunlight, music, romance, exercise, and nature can all raise your endorphin levels, which are neurotransmitters. Endorphins are what allow you to feel a zest and excitement for life. In a sense, they can influence your sense of joy. Massages, happy memories, chocolate, sex, deep breathing, meditation, and roller coasters also significantly raise your endorphin levels.  It is important to understand that you can be deficient in endorphins or other neurotransmitters, and your levels can be influenced by genetics, stress, chronic pain, and diet.

Neurotransmitters can only be made out of amino acids, which must be consumed. Fortunately, you can get them from a high-protein diet, and additionally purchase them as supplements from a neighborhood health food store. Vitamins and minerals regulate the production of neurotransmitters, and animal fats allow you to use these naturally mood-boosting amino fuels. In addition, adequate amounts of hormones like estrogen and progesterone are vital for the proper functioning of certain neurotransmitters. Hormones have a powerful effect on moods, which make sense for a lot of women who are pregnant, postpartum, premenstrual, or menopausal. So let’s examine the different neurotransmitters’ effects on mood.

Serotonin

When you are high in serotonin, you are positive, flexible, and easy-going.  But when you are low or deficient in serotonin, you can be negative, obsessive, worried, irritable, and or sleepless. You may be prone to tantrums, irrational anger, violent behavior, guilty feelings, low self-esteem, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. More clues to low serotonin levels include being a night owl, a sugar addiction, an exercise addiction, or a drug addiction.

Having low estrogen levels, can also lower your serotonin levels because estrogen helps to program serotonin. Females produce less serotonin than males. Consequently, women are twice as likely to suffer from premenstrual, menopausal, or postpartum mood problems when their estrogen falls too low.

Serotonin is your primary defense against depression and anxiety. Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan and another amino acid. Tryptophan is found in beef, turkey, fish, chicken, pork, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products.

Breastmilk is higher in tryptophan than any other milk, so it makes sense why people say that breast-fed babies are so easy-going. They are constantly getting the highest source of tryptophan. Exclusively formula-fed infants can result in low serotonin babies, which can also lead to low serotonin adults. If breastfeeding is not an option, it is important to use a homemade nutrient-dense formula. The recipe can be found at thehealthyhomeeconomist.com, but it would have to be strictly followed to avoid any nutrient deficiencies. The ingredients can be costly or hard to obtain, so it requires the caregiver to be very diligent.

Sunlight and exercise are great for good moods. They both raise oxygen levels in the brain, and oxygen is critical to the formation of serotonin from amino acids. No wonder why exercising can be addictive. It makes you feel good immediately afterwards. Serotonin is also stimulated by bright light, or sunlight. Exposure to bright light during the day not only improves your emotions, it improves your sleep quality because it stimulates melatonin to raise at night.   Often in the winter, people may experience a low-level depression, or what has been called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), from lack of exposure to sunlight. Not only does exposure to the sun elevate your serotonin, your mood, and improve your sleep, it increases your body’s levels of vitamin D, which allows you to be more effective at fighting off infections. In other words, lots of sun in the winter can be your replacement for the flu shot.

Sugar can very temporarily raise your serotonin levels, but it is not sustainable, and sets you up for an emotional crash later. Using sweets to feel better is a sign of a serotonin deficiency. So pay attention if you are craving sweets at night or during the winter. Craving alcohol or marijuana may also be a sign of low mood-enhancing chemicals. If you suspect you are low in serotonin, you’ll want to increase your intake of quality protein sources, decrease your sugar intake, get exercise for at least 30 minutes 2-3 times a week, and get out into the sun. You can also take supplements of tryptophan or 5-HTP, but you should consult a nutritional expert or health care provider first.

Catecholamines

Being high in the catecholamine neurotransmitters makes you feel energized, upbeat, and alert. Being low in them can make you sink into a flat, lethargic funk or not react strongly to things. You may have trouble with focus and concentration, like having difficulty when paying attention requires you to be physically still. Or, you may have a reduced sex drive. Catecholamines call us to attention. They enthuse you in the face of positive news and alarm you in the face of threats. They prime you to take action, even program your physical movements. Any exciting prospect can elevate their levels, like anticipating a meal or going for a run.

Catecholamines—or the cats—are what Julia Ross calls your internal cheering squad and drill sergeant. The extent to which you are introverted or extroverted is related to your cats. And remember, your brain can inherit an abundance of, or a deficiency in them. Being low in the cats may make you drawn to stimulants like coffee, chocolate, tobacco, nutra-sweet, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or amphetamines. Ritalin also increases catecholamine production in the brain, which is why it is used on kids with ADHD. Low estrogen and testosterone can stymy the cats.  High protein sources and stabilized hormonal levels are the first start to waking the sleeping cats. With professional consultation, the amino acid tyrosine can also be taken to elevate those levels. Not having enough tyrosine is also related to your thyroid health, which may be another clue to sleeping cats.

GABA

Do you feel wired, stressed, or overwhelmed? Feel like you just can’t take it anymore? You may be suffering from adrenal fatigue. It is a sign your adrenals are no longer producing enough stress-fighting hormones. The adrenal glands produce up to 60 different hormones—including your stress and sex hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are released in stressful situations. Adrenaline alerts you to imminent danger and prepares your body for fighting or fleeing. Afterwards, the release of cortisol subdues the adrenaline rush and infuses you with strength and stamina. Cortisol is critical in allowing you to face ongoing stress. But continual release of adrenaline and cortisol leaves you feeling wired and strained. Eventually, you will experience adrenal burnout and will not be able to rise to stressful situations. You may start feeling irritable, anxious, or suffer from exhaustion. Caffeine, foods high in sugar, and chronic infections also stress the adrenals by keeping these hormone levels high. Constant high levels can lead to heart disease, lowered immune function, and Alzheimer’s disease.

A brain well-stocked in the neurotransmitter GABA allows you to be relaxed and stress-free. Progesterone controls the release of this relaxing chemical in the brain. Levels of GABA and progesterone are supposed to be at their highest the week before menstruation. In PMS and menopause, progesterone levels can be too low. Men can also suffer from low progesterone levels. A diet with lots of good cholesterol from egg yolks, saturated fats, vitamins and minerals—especially vitamin D—are all important to maintain healthy adrenal glands. GABA can be taken as a supplement and is easily acquired from health food stores. The homeopathic remedy Calmes Forte may also be helpful. As always, consult a health professional when taking supplements.

Endorphins

People who take great pleasure in life and who are delighted in the many things it offers are high in endorphins. Being overly sensitive to hurt, crying all the time, or covering up feelings of denial can indicate a brain low in endorphins. Confusingly, endorphins can allow you to be in a state of denial, but when the levels run low, the real painful feelings have to be covered by synthetic painkillers like sugar, alcohol, or drugs. Traumatic events can deplete our endorphins. For instance, endorphins may raise initially after the death of a loved one, and can waver back and forth for a few weeks, but eventually the levels fall for good and a new phase of grief must be faced.

Endorphin levels rise during puberty. In adulthood, men have higher levels than women, which is why women are inclined to be more sensitive than men. Low estrogen reduces endorphins, and so again, we see women being more vulnerable to over-sensitivity to pain. Endorphins are what allow us to endure physical pain. B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids have all been shown to help with physical and or emotional pain. Certain amino acid supplements are also an effective method for dealing with pain.

You can pass your low hormonal levels on to your children. Hence, your inability to handle stress, depression, or anxiety can be inherited. So it is vital for both men and women to be fortified with lots of protein from fish, eggs, beef, chicken, or dairy, as well as healthy animal fats, before conceiving children.

Eating protein is crucial for keeping blood sugar balanced, and a combination with a saturated fat like butter, satisfies our bodies and lets us know we can stop eating because our blood sugar won’t drop. The worst mood-promoting foods are (in order): #1, Sugar #2, White Four #3, Wheat/Gluten #4, High Omega-6 Vegetable oils (not olive oil) or trans fats, and #5, Soy. All of these foods, in addition to promoting bad moods, cause a host of other health issues in the body, like allergies and inflammation, and should be strictly limited. Our bodies and our moods thrive off of protein, animal fat, and a host of vitamins and minerals obtained from a variety of healthy plant and animal sources.

Not eating enough food can be even harder on your mood than eating foods that cause false moods. Low-calorie dieting is known to be associated with eating disorders and terrible moods. Julia Ross admonishes that dieting and fasting have indelible effects on your brain—it starves and literally shrinks it.   Skipping meals as well, means nutrient losses that can add up to long-term mood deficits. Your body does not keep a reserve of mood-maintaining nutrients. As Ross says, if you don’t eat them, they won’t arrive.

You must also be careful about drinking coffee in lieu of eating breakfast. Coffee can kill your morning appetite leading you to skip breakfast, which will ultimately make you crave sugars throughout the day. Used wrong, coffee can promote high stress and low energy, as well as mood swings and hypoglycemia. Inadequate sleep is another contributor to bad moods. Adequate serotonin from amino acids (protein) is critical to the production of melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle.

So do you like being positive, energized, upbeat, alert, easy-going, relaxed, flexible, euphoric, and stress-free? Having healthy and loving parents is a great start, but the key to happiness can be as simple as eating well, and getting enough sleep, sun, and exercise. The things we know are good for our bodies are also especially good for our minds.

 by Rabiah Lewis

 Sources:

Ross, Julia. The Mood Cure. Penguin Books: New York. 2004.

The Home School Alternative

Increasingly, I am becoming disillusioned with public school education.   I grew up in this system, and I enjoyed it for many years.  But I started to feel a disconnect from it in high school. Since then, I have raised a step daughter in the system for 10 years.  I have experienced its promise in the form of better school districts and charter schools. I’ve experienced its convenience, its enthusiasm, its organization, and even its passion. I know that these qualities continue to thrive in public schools despite the 100s of “buts” that I am about to list here. I believe public school could be a gift to many.

I now have 3 children of my own, and my perspective on schooling has slowly begun to change. My life has evolved in such a way that my beliefs and my lifestyle are no longer compatible with the predominant beliefs and policies held in the public school system. Those predominant beliefs and policies are as follows:

  • Standardized tests are an accurate measure of the quality of education and the ability of the child.
  • Through the application of standardized tests, everyone should fit into a one-size-fits-all box.
  • All children should learn in predictable ways (primarily visually).
  • Rote Memorization matters more than students asking perceptive questions and coming up with creative answers. It also matters more than emotional intelligence.
  • Only knowledge in certain subjects counts towards intelligence and IQ.
  • Teach students only what they’ll need to, A) get accepted into college, and B) get hired to be a lifetime employee (to say nothing of applied science, practical skills, and entrepreneurship—and who actually still believes college prepares you for the real world??)
  • Approval is conditional.
  • Follow rules and instructions blindly, and don’t question authorities (despite your best intuition).
  • Quantitative evaluation tells you everything you need to know about a student’s accumulated knowledge, potential, intelligence, and ability.
  • Homework—or more busy work—is a necessary extension of the excessively long school day.
  • Homogenous groups are normal and natural.
  • Hierarchies are a normal and accepted form of social grouping.
  • Professions in which you wear a white collar and sit behind a desk are inherently superior to all other jobs (barring military, police, and rescue jobs).
  • A low-fat, high carbohydrate diet is the best diet.
  • Germs are the primary cause of illness, whereas people are their passive victims. Covering the mouth while coughing/sneezing and frequent hand washing will prevent the spread of colds.

There is so much more being taught at schools than the subjects of the core curriculum. Private schools often feed into this same paradigm, so you are paying thousands of dollars for a glorified public school education. Even in the really progressive private schools, you are dealing with exorbitant costs and excessive rules—particularly for parents.

I am ready for the kind of education that is not quite so demanding of parents’ pockets and of their compliance. I’m ready for education that is not so demanding of students and of teachers. I’m ready for the kind of education where everyone around you is not under loads of pressure about issues and details that detract from the acquisition of pure knowledge.

I could be waiting for a while. So until that day comes, home schooling sounds like an amazing alternative.   This is not a viable option for so many students whose parents are forced to work outside the home. But I want to strive to make it an option for my family. Why? Here are some facts about home schooling:

  • Over 2.04 million students are now learning at home—a 75% increase from 1999, and it is still growing.
  • When it comes to performing, home schoolers are blowing everyone else out of the water.  Home-educated students’ test scores remain between the 89th and 90th percentile regardless of the mothers’ education. The only area where the “average” homeschooler is slightly lower than the average public schooler is math.
  • Home schoolers win state geography bees, spelling bees, and science fairs.
  • They ace the ACT at a higher rate.
  • They outscore public school kids on communication skills, daily living skills, socialization, and maturity.
  • Many, if not most, home schoolers go on to do well in college, whereas the US graduation rate has been stagnant since the 1970s even as other nations advance!
  • Home schoolers are also less affected by external factors such as household income (they do well whether their parents were certified teachers, and succeed no matter how much money was spent on their education).

There are definitely some cons to homeschooling.   At least one parent has to be available to homeschool the kids (unless a tutor is hired). There are some out-of-pocket costs associated with homeschooling.   Homeschooling takes a lot of work, commitment, requires you to be proactive, connected, and up-to-date on educational matters.   You may not have all the answers.  And finally, you don’t get to have a 6-7 hour break from your kids during the week (but that could be a bonus depending on your perspective).

Still, I haven’t finished talking about its benefits:

  • You get better sleep.
  • No bullying from other kids, no gangs, and no worry about the latest fads.
  • There is less exposure to drugs and sexual pressure.
  • Ritalin-free
  • Students can avoid embarrassment in front of teachers and peers.
  • Students learn to work for internal satisfaction over external rewards.
  • It builds family bonds.
  • There is better preparation for the real world through hands-on learning and constant field trips (even field trips are more hands-on).
  • Students get spiritual training and develop morality.
  • Students learn at the their own pace, learn subjects not taught in school, and spend more time outdoors.
  • Independence and enthusiasm are encouraged through student-directed learning.
  • Students become more responsible (chores become school projects).
  • Kids socialize with children of all ages.
  • Vacations and religious holidays are honored.
  • It has a great teacher-pupil ratio.
  • Home school honors natural cycles.
  • Home school is as safe as your home.
  • No more inferior cafeteria food. 

In addition, home schoolers have access to homeschool co-ops that include additional classes, online classes, college classes, college science labs, museums, small-businesses and entrepreneurship, community theater, group play dates, and clubs of all kinds. There’s more here than we ever thought. I’m definitely giving it another serious consideration for my kids.

The foods our ancestors ate—implications for reproductive and gynecological health

Our bodies are sensitive.  Our bodies are cyclic.  Our bodies are constantly listening, receiving, and interpreting information.  Our cells are interpreting vibrations—electrical, chemical, and emotional.  This has been going on for millions of years.  And millions of years of evolution created a perfect specimen—a woman.  And into her was passed the charge of reproducing the human race.

It is often said that we, in developed nations, are living longer than ever.  But are we?  Certainly the average life span has increased when antibiotics, artificial life support, emergency care, and pharmaceuticals are taken into account.  With all of that, we’ve managed to tack on a whopping 6 more years to the average life span since 100 BC[i].  The percentage of people living a really long life, however, has significantly gone down.  The percentage of Americans aged 100 in 1830 was .02.  In 1990, it was .015%.   And today it is .001%[ii].  Most important, the quality of life experienced in our bodies has deteriorated.

My quest for radiant health got serious when I decided to have children.  Discovering the importance of nutrition was an accident, really.  I was reading The Garden of Fertility by Katie Singer, on natural ways of charting your fertility signals to safely and effectively prevent or achieve pregnancy, and the best way to prepare your body for conception and pregnancy.  I wasn’t expecting to discover that nutritional preparation was key to successful fertility and parenting.

Most of my female friends and family struggle with at least one reproductive health issue.  From infertility to uterine fibroids to painful and heavy periods to polycystic ovarian syndrome, we women are constantly reminded of the vulnerability of our wombs.  I believe that these womb scars are, in part, a result of individual and collective psychic scars.  There is so much wounding to correct and make right, it is overwhelming to know where to begin.  Maybe we are not ready to face old wounds, but our lives and our children’s lives demand it.

Before the introduction of street lamps and modern lighting, women ovulated when the moon was full and bled while it was new.  We now know that exposure to light affects our circadian rhythm and our hormonal system, which is at the root of our menstrual cycle.  Melatonin, which regulates the circadian rhythm and the hypothalamus, is primarily secreted at night because it requires darkness to be produced.  Bright light suppresses its secretion.  The hypothalamus regulates the endocrine system, temperature, blood pressure, and emotion[iii].  You can imagine, then, that something as simple as certain exposure to light, can impair the hormonal system.

Lunaception is a technique that can help regulate and normalize women with very short or long cycles.  In addition, to creating regular, healthy menstrual cycles, lunaception can be used to avoid pregnancy. The technique mimics our ancestors’ natural experience with darkness and the moon.  It involves sleeping in complete darkness from days 1-13 of the menstrual cycle, sleeping with a low light source on days 14-17, and then sleeping in complete darkness again until the start of a new period.  Complete darkness means 15 minutes after turning out the lights, you cannot see objects in the room[iv].  To achieve this, it is necessary to eliminate or cover light coming from any source like street lamps, night lights, digital clocks, etc.

Lunaception, or even just sleeping in complete darkness every night, has been shown to strengthen gynecological health, increase fertility, and improve hormonal levels and premenopausal symptoms[v].  But the most direct and easy way to address the roots of reproductive illness, outside of emotional healing therapy, is through correcting diet and nutrition.  This is simple to say, but proper diet and eating takes quite a bit of mental fortitude because of the modern mixed-up and confusing nutritional landscape in this country.  The first fact to face is that modern nutrition is grossly inadequate for the task of sustaining our bodies, those of our children, and future generations.

Nowadays we have our scapegoats all lined up for the causes of illness and disease.  We blame the 3 g’s:  germs, genetics, and God.  We take no personal responsibility for our sick bodies, let alone our sick children.  Traditional people understood well that reproduction entails a critical period of formation and growth in utero, and they recognized that men and women—especially women—need extra nutrition up to 6 months before conception.  This nutritional window was recognized as a special period where special foods were fed to the parents to-be.  And these special foods were fed through gestation and lactation.

Traditional cultures made a science of birthing healthy children.  They took serious the charge of reproduction.  They knew this was their true source of wealth.  Blackfoot women knew that the lining of the buffalo large intestine gave babies a nice round head.  The Maasai only allowed couples to marry after several months of consuming milk from cows eating the wet season grass.  In Fiji, islanders hiked miles down to the sea to acquire certain species of lobster crab which they knew produced “a highly perfect infant”[vi].  Thousands of years of dedication, trial and error, and wisdom being passed on was necessary to protect the genetic wealth of a people to survive in a harsh and wild world.

Our bodies were built by these nutrient dense foods.  Between 3 and 2 ½ million years ago, our brain grew to the proportions it did because eating nutrient dense foods from meat sources allowed our digestive systems to shrink, diverting precious energy away from it towards the brain.  As the maternal metabolic turnover increased, the blood flowing through the placenta of every hominid fetus contained a fuller, more dependable source of omega 3’s and other nutrients, and nothing could prevent the fetus from taking advantage of it[vii].   The proper functioning of our minds and our bodies are still dependent on these foods today.

We come from over 150,000 generations of hunters and gatherers.  Our bodies are built to consume meat for the protein and fat it provides.  With agriculture—the domestication of cereal grains—came the “diseases of civilization” (to say nothing of the diseases of ecosystems).  Before that, we were largely, disease-free.  The reason cereal grains are so nutritionally problematic is because they contain many toxins and anti-nutrients to stop animals from eating them.  Heat, grinding, soaking, rinsing, sprouting, and fermenting disable some of these anti-nutrients.  But eating too many of these improperly prepared starches and sugars can overload the intestines causing an inflammatory response, impairing proper digestion and absorption and allowing toxins into our bloodstream.  A host of problems like Type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and depression may result.

Because so many of us in civilized cultures are sick, we don’t question it.  We simply eat the food the culture provides.  But food activist Lierre Keith says it is a lot to question, from the USDA food pyramid, to the righteous aura with which the Left has infused plant-based foods, to civilization itself.  “And these are powerful forces to which our native intelligence has long been subordinated”[viii].

Cereal grains are plants that have designed an intricate way of protecting themselves.  They produce lectins which produce auto-immune responses.  In effect, the body turns on itself.  Grains are basically carbohydrates lacking in essential amino acids, and they have enough opioids to make them highly addictive.  Essential amino acids are essential building blocks of protein that we cannot make ourselves, we can only eat them.  But every cell in the body can make all of the sugar it needs.  The actual amount of carbohydrates required by the body is zero[ix].  Eating a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet is like a tiger attack 3 times a day because of how sugar stimulates the release of adrenaline.  Not only does this create a hypoglycemic cycle of extreme highs and lows, it damages the stomach’s ability to produce hydrochloric acid which can leave you feeling sick, nauseated, and bloated[x]. White flour breaks down in the body into glucose.  Too much sugar in the body makes it secrete excess insulin, and if this happens, the ovaries may stop making estrogen and secrete testosterone instead.  This action diminishes or stops ovulation and hinders progesterone.  The repetition of this process results in polycystic ovarian syndrome[xi].

The good moods you experience throughout the day are mainly possible through protein.  Brains deprived of protein and fat can be rigid, angry, and easily set-off[xii].  A build-up of endorphins requires a large, consistent supply of high-protein foods like fish, eggs, cottage cheese or chicken.  Lack of protein puts you at risk for depression because of the lack of tryptophan[xiii].  Depressed people tend to crave sweets and starchy foods because the sudden rise in blood sugar gives a short-lived burst of energy, but it is followed by a period of letdown and exhaustion, which leads to craving more sugar[xiv].   White flour and white sugar are classic bad-mood foods.  Amino acids (building blocks of protein) are our most effective weapons for fighting these false moods.  Although sunlight, music, romance, exercise, and nature can raise your endorphin levels, they can’t help if your basic levels are too low[xv].

It is time to start listening to your hunger, the real hunger of your body—not the cravings and addictions of pseudo-foods.  Your cells could never be satisfied with that.  Only truly nourishing foods can satisfy you on the cellular level.  To put it bluntly, your brain is hungry for fat—real fat.  So eat up all the full fat cream and butter you can get your hands on.  Leave that skin on the chicken (it’s the tastiest part anyway).  Fry those collards up with bacon grease.  Put that lard back in those biscuits.  There is something to be said for American Southern culinary tradition.

Why does this sound so wrong?  It is because this country has built an entire ideology off of the very flimsy Lipid Hypothesis which claims that high amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease.  The Lipid Hypothesis, formulated back in the 1970s, came from a series of dodgy, if not fraudulent, epidemiological studies and questionable researchers who broke the epidemiological golden rule against conflating correlation with causation.  The hypothesis has been disproven and decried by doctors and researchers for years to no avail[xvi].  But it has persisted to the point of becoming doctrine because it fit very nicely into a big corporate agenda of convincing Americans to set aside their local butter, lard, and tallow in favor of the very cheap and plentiful vegetable oils (including soybean oil, canola oil, and corn oil).  At first, this came with a lot of resistance from Americans deeply connected to their culinary traditions, but to the ultimate detriment of the soil, our ecosystems, and our bodies, Big Agriculture won the day through shear stubborn persistence (and a lot of financing towards public and private grants and research to prove this theory).

In the meantime, let’s talk about the facts.  Cholesterol is necessary for life.  Low cholesterol levels are associated with higher cancer risk and increased mortality in heart failure patients[xvii].  Cholesterol keeps cells structurally stable.  Without it, you’d be a puddle, not an animal.   It is the body’s  basic repair substance with antioxidant powers, and all of your hormones are made out of it.  20 percent of the body’s cholesterol needs has to be ingested by food (the body makes the rest).  Breastmilk is high in cholesterol, as infants brains cannot grow without it.  It is known that eating egg yolks—good sources of cholesterol—is protective against Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative diseases.  It is also an excellent food for conceiving and birthing healthy babies.

Nutritionist Dr. Mary Enig says it is very important to know your fats—meaning know the good fats from the bad.  Commercial vegetable oils are exposed to high heat, mechanical processing, solvent extraction, refining, bleaching, and degumming, rendering them all highly rancid.  They can set off chain reactions in the body that destroy cells and damage DNA[xviii].   The worst of all fats to be avoided at all costs are the trans-fats found in hydrogenated vegetable oils such as margarine and vegetable shortening.  Trans-fats have been linked to obesity, heart problems, cancer, infertility, lowered sperm counts, low birth weight babies, and reduced quality of breast milk[xix].  Unfortunately, trans-fats are commonly found in almost all commercial baked goods.  Saturated fats, however, are stable in the body.  In addition, essential vitamins A, D, B, and K all need saturated fats for transportation and absorption.  Saturated fat is necessary for the optimal functioning of our nervous and endocrine system.  And the endocrine system, remember, is at the root of our reproductive health.  It is extremely difficult to sustain a pregnancy without enough animal fat in the diet because it directly impacts the level of progesterone.

And still, the low-fat diet is heralded as the healthiest diet.  This, despite the fact that the fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats[xx].  This, despite the fact that during the period of rapid increase in heart disease from 1920-1960, American consumption of animal fats declined and the consumptiom of trans-fats and vegetable oils increased dramatically (USDA-HNIS).  This, despite the known fact that the all-cause death rates are higher in individuals with cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dl[xxi].  So let’s state these facts loudly.  Saturated fat has not been satisfactorily shown to raise cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol has not been satisfactorily proven to cause coronary heart disease.  This flips the entire low-fat religion completely on its head.

George Mann, MD, former co-Director of the famous Framingham heart study stated:  “The diet-heart hypothesis has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, and yet, for complicated reasons of pride, profit, and prejudice, the hypothesis continues to be exploited by scientists, fund-raising enterprises, food companies and even governmental agencies.  The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century.”[xxii]

No discussion about food and reproductive health is complete without talking about soy.  The soy industry has done an excellent, but frightening, job of convincing us that it is the healthiest alternative to meat and dairy out there.  Soy contains so many anti-nutrients that is not edible for humans without a lot of processing, even more so than other seeds.  In Asia, a way was found to make soy edible by fermenting it into miso, which disables the trypsin inhibitors that otherwise cause gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea[xxiii].  Even so, it was only served as a condiment in small amounts.  This is in stark contrast to our Western highly processed unfermented soy that is eaten liberally as a meat substitute, and even further processed and repackaged to serve as an alternative to milk.

In addition to trypsin inhibitors, soy contains the highest amount of phytates which can permanently damage your thyroid if you eat or drink enough.  It also contains phytoestrogens.  Infants on soy formula receive the equivalent of 3 to 5 birth control pills a day[xxiv].    It is extremely dangerous to be used as formula in infants. Phytoestrogens produce infertility by locking on to estrogen receptors in the body and blocking them and other hormones such as LH and FSH (key hormones in the menstrual cycle).  They also disrupt the body’s production of estrogen, and this has been known since the 1940s[xxv].  Soy can cause endometrial damage and infertile cervical mucus changes.  Soy can halt menstruation or significantly lengthen the menstrual cycle.   The isoflavones in soy are associated with cancer and endometriosis.  It can lower sperm count in men and interferes with testosterone.  In short, soy can cause accelerated brain aging, infertility, miscarriages, birth defects, decreased libido, aggression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders. This plant has gone through a lot of changes to prevent itself from being eaten, even as far as messing with an animal’s ability to reproduce.

When indigenous people on their native diets were studied, no cases of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes were found[xxvi].  Studies of cultures eating high amounts of coconut oil, eggs, fish, and dairy have found that there is a lower risk of strokes than those eating the least[xxvii].  Animal fats contain many nutrients that protect against cancer and heart disease[xxviii].  The world renowned Kalenjin Kenyan runners come from a culture free from chronic and degenerative disease.  Raw and fermented dairy products form the bulk of their diet[xxix].   Unfortunately, many of these same people, once they switch to the modern western diets, start manifesting the same illnesses and diseases that we have become so familiar with.  So what were indigenous people eating before the influx of western foods?  The definition of cuisine is a local tradition of food and food preparation.  World cuisine is as different and diverse as local dress and customs.  What connects them all, however, are the pillars of world cuisine:  meat on the bone and organ meats from wild or grass-fed animals; foods that are fermented or sprouted (particularly any grains); and raw or fresh foods from produce, dairy, or meat sources[xxx].  Food with the most minerals are marine foods, (from sources like fish, shellfish, fish organs, fish liver oil, and fish eggs) which explains why the healthiest people on earth are coastal-dwelling fishing peoples.  The next healthiest groups are always the hunter-gatherer/pastoralist groups who eat wild or pastured land mammals. (Note: meat from factory farms are not consumed by either of these groups, as they weren’t consumed by our ancestors).

When asked why they ate the foods they did, the answer from all of these people was the same: “So we can make perfect babies” [xxxi].  Clearly, we have much to learn about eating.  “Our ancestors didn’t think of their food in terms of carbs and protein and fat.  They thought more in terms of good soil, healthy animal, freshly picked, and for this reason, their traditional cultural practices, and the foods they took into their bodies, kept them firmly tethered to the natural world.  In other words, they stayed connected”[xxxii].

If 100% of your food comes from mega non-specialty grocery stores, like Safeway or Publix, the road to optimal health might be a challenge.  So where should we be getting our food from?  One hundred years ago, this would have been a preposterous question.  Food was pulled from the outdoor garden, the backyard, the barn, a neighbor’s flock, fished out of the river or ocean, or was purchased from a small market down the street. This is still the case in many countries.  But since we are where we are, and most of us live in cities far removed from local foods, what can we realistically do about getting healthy sources of food?  Radiant health starts with making a commitment to obtaining real food.  Then it becomes a process.  Before you know it you’re on a journey, until finally it becomes a lifestyle, a mission, a spiritual identity.

It is important to maintain a good relationship with yourself while on this path.  In other words, be gentle with yourself, instead of judgmental, but be committed.  Once you start looking, you will find an abundance of resources like community supported agriculture (CSAs), seasonal farmer’s markets, and buying clubs or co-ops.  You’ll get connected to the slow food movement in your city.  You’ll start budgeting better to afford the greater cost of truly healthful foods.  You’ll discover small community health food stores, or get the hook-up with a local farmer.  You’ll start growing herbs and vegetables in your own backyard or rooftop garden.  The point is, when you make the decision to be committed to the path of radiant health, the synchronicity of just the right opportunity, at just the right time won’t stop.  Start slow, don’t get too frustrated that you give up, and don’t judge yourself for everything that you eat.  Eating is sacred, and when you eat, be happy and thankful about it.  The way you approach your food can be just as important as what you eat.  Our ancestors knew this, as do our indigenous neighbors, and so do you if you sit down to eat a holiday meal with your family. Being a woman already revolves around her relationships.  It shouldn’t be a stretch to become inspired to be in sync with your relationship with food and where it comes from.

For more information on traditional nutrition, look up the Weston A. Price Foundation or research the Primal diet or the Paleo diet.

 

Endnotes

[i]“Length of Life in the Ancient World”.  Journal of the Royal Society  of Medicine, January 1994.

[ii] Wise Traditions Vol. 8 No. 1, 2007 p13.

[iii] Singer, Katie.  The Garden of Fertility, Penguin Group Inc, 2004, p158-159.

[iv] Ibid, p160.

[v] Ibid, p161.

[vi] Shanahan, Catherine and Luke Shanahan.  Deep Nutrition, Big Box Books, 2009.

[vii] Morgan, Elaine.  The Descent of the Woman, Souvenir Press Ltd, 1972.

[viii] Keith, Lierre.  The Vegetarian Myth, Flashpoint Press, 2009, p153.

[ix] Eades, Michael R. and Mary Dan Eades.  Protein Power, Bantam Books, 1999.

[x] Keith, p159.

[xi] Singer, p176.

[xii] Keith, p193.

[xiii] Ross, Julia.  The Mood Cure, Penguin Books, 2004, p26-27.

[xiv] Singer, p176.

[xv] Ross, p113.

[xvi] Keith, p170.

[xvii] Ibid, p161.

[xviii] Singer, p174.

[xix] Ibid, p175.

[xx] “Myths and Truths about Cholesterol”, The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions leaflet, 2010.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] “Principles of Healthy Diets”. The Weston A Price Foundation for Wise Traditions leaflet, http://www.westonaprice.org

[xxiii] Keith, p213.

[xxiv] Singer, p177.

[xxv] Keith, p214.

[xxvi] Ibid, p190.

[xxvii] Ibid, p171.

[xxviii] Federation Proceedings July 1978 37:2215.

[xxix] Keith, p170.

[xxx] Shanahan, p125-151.

[xxxi] Keith, p191.

[xxxii] Shanahan, p114.

Weston A. Price Foundation and sustainable farmers usher in a new paradigm for health and wellness

In November, I had the privilege of attending the Wise Traditions conference put on by the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Farm-to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.    Scientists, researchers, holistic doctors, sustainable farmers, and radical homemakers all convened pulling together leading edge research and experiential data on the status of our food supply and the resulting condition of our bodies.  It was an awe-inspiring amalgamation of experts, eager parents, homemakers, health professionals, and health vendors.

The conference kicked off with an all-day workshop by high priest sustainable farmer, Joel Salatin.  Workshops throughout the conference spanned the gamut of traditional cuisine, cooking, farming & gardening, chronic disease, and toxins in our environment. Over one thousand attendees came from all over the country and internationally to soak up information from the best minds in nutrition and health, to fellowship with like-minded peers, visit the hundreds of exhibitors, and to reunite with old acquaintances.   Thanks to donated food from family farms, every meal was tailored to include only the richest and most nutrient dense foods and ingredients.  I heard many attendees exclaim that these were some of the best meals they’d had in a while, and I definitely shared in their sentiments.  The meals left us feeling, well, nourished.

So what is it all about?  Who is Weston A. Price and what has started a global movement in farming, cooking, and eating?  Weston A. Price was a Cleveland dentist in the 1930s who saw an overwhelming about of disease, poor dental health, and facial degeneration in his practice.  The diseases were so rampant that he was moved to put his practice on hold in order to find out why this was occurring.  He wanted to know if there were truly healthy people living in the world somewhere, and if so, what their diets looked like.  For 10 years, each summer he and his wife traveled to a different part of the globe to find cultures, villages, and tribes who still ate the diets of their ancestors—in other words, untouched by western civilization.  He had no idea the implications of what he was to later discover.

Before I reveal what he did discover, let’s review what we here in the US are taught.  In the 1980s, the USDA formulated the model American diet.  They created the Food Pyramid with grains, bread, cereal, rice, and pasta at the bottom to be eaten in large quantities, and fats, oils, and sweets at the top to be eaten sparingly.  They said it would make us healthier.  For over 50 years we have stuck to this diet, eating less saturated fat and eating a high proportion of grains.  In the meantime, we are #1 in the world in medical spending. According to the National Health Statistics Group, 16 cents of every American dollar is spent on health care.  The US spends an astronomical 4 trillion dollars on healthcare and this number is expected to double in 3 years.

Since 1900, fat consumption from animal sources has substantially decreased while vegetable and trans fat consumption has increased in the US almost exponentially.  And many of these fats have entered our diets for the first time in human evolution (i.e. trans fats, partially hydrogenated fats found in commercial baked goods and soybean oil).  Low fat diets are now promoted by all US government agencies, but heart disease is still on the rise and obesity affects 58% of Americans.  According to the World Health Organization, diabetes affects 3 out of 5 people, and cancer is now the leading cause of death in the US (exceeding heart disease).

When Dr. Price made his voyages, he discovered a common theme.  He studied groups in Switzerland, the Hebrides, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, and in the Melanesian and Polynesian sea islands.  The common theme throughout all these groups was that the people there who stuck to their native diets enjoyed excellent health with little or no dental decay, beautiful straight teeth, good physiques, resistance to disease, and—this really caught my attention—women who gave birth to beautiful, bouncing babies with great ease.  The elderly were spry and free from degenerative diseases and dementia.  The societies eating their native diets all enjoyed a high level of mental health and stability.   He sent samples of their food back to his lab in Cleveland to have them analyzed and found foods extremely rich in fat soluble and water soluble vitamins.  The diets were also very high in Calcium and other minerals.  But the biggest difference in their food from the standard American diet of the time, was in their consumption of fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods such as butter, fish liver oils, organ meats, eggs, shellfish, and other animal fats –in other words, saturated fat was a big part of their diet!

Price also took pictures of those eating traditionally and put them side-by-side with pictures of those eating western civilization diets within the same culture, and the differences were both striking and disturbing.  Often, you could see the degeneration and disease appearing within just one generation of a family switching from their native diets.  The pictures speak for themselves.  You don’t even have to read his book to be completely blown away by the evidence right before your eyes.

So what can we do to get our hands on some truly nourishing foods?  Despite the skepticism, it is entirely possible to obtain quality, humanely-raised, natural-dieting-eating meat, eggs, and fish.  Farms, farmer’s markets, food buying clubs, community grocery markets, the internet, and one’s own garden are great sources for these foods.  The Weston A. Price Foundation, founded to disseminate and further the research of Dr. Price, is dedicated to restoring nutrient dense foods to the American diet through research, education, and activism.  A local Weston A. Price chapter can put you in touch with much needed resources, recipes, cooking classes, and even a support system for eating well.  There is even an app, (if you’re in to apps) as a shopping guide for the highest quality foods available.  Just do a search for wapf.

There is so much at stake, and so much to be gained from returning to a traditional food paradigm.  Our ecology, our health, our environment, and our local economies are all hanging in the balance. The more I find out about what is truly healing and nourishing for our bodies, the more I discover that these same foods heal and nourish our planet.  Joel Salatin says that land healing is not just on the backs of farmers, but on the backs of urban consumers as well to act knowledgeably with farmers and to work with seasons and cycles.    He believes we need to make the domestic and culinary arts prestigious again—to start respecting our food.  These shifts together create what he calls a “tribe of thinking” which will gain momentum and pass back down to future generations.  Salatin also made an excellent argument for the reverse urbanization trend.  He believes that growing and raising our food locally stimulates local economies, and he talked about a shift from the Information economy to the Regenerative economy.

We not only have a responsibility to heal our bodies for ourselves, we a have a responsibility to restore our bodies so that future generations can survive and thrive—and that includes the future generations of all the species of this planet.  Eating responsibly goes hand and hand with buying our food responsibly, and that is going to take effort.  We can no longer afford to leave our food choices and our food supply solely in the hands of private corporations who have accountability to no one but shareholders.  Our bodies and our environment are showing us that we cannot sustain that level of negligence and misappropriation of power.  We must become actively informed, engaged, participatory, and disciplined about what is going on with our food and how it got on our plate.  That is going to take becoming knowledgeable about where our food came from, how far it came, who was affected by the production of the food, and what condition did the growers and raisers leave the soil in which they got the food.  Links between soil content and rates of cancer are becoming more and more ubiquitous.

Global warming is believed to be one of the number one global crises in our immediate future.  It is not so simple as whether you drove your car to work today.  When the bread crumb trail to commercial food production is followed, you are left with one of the grimmest tales of ecological destruction and the subsequent increase in greenhouse gases that you could have ever conceived of.

More of the same standard American diet is not going to save us, improve us, or cure us of anything.  There are so many authors and books now that can document what is being done in our country and globally. So many professionals are screaming from the mountaintops with their warnings and their pleadings.  If you haven’t heard of any of them, that’s your tax dollars at work spreading nutritional propaganda of corporate lobbyists and corporate interests.   It is an impressive joint government and private business effort of miseducation, misdirection, and downright concealment.  Author and nutritionist Nora Gedgaudas says that until this century, no human society in history has consumed a diet even remotely resembling what the USDA pyramid suggests is optimal.  So it is up to individuals to get the truth—to return to biology 101—and start applying significant nutritional and lifestyle changes.  It requires having an open mind to things like seasonal eating and unorthodox food choices like organ meats and fermented cabbage.  It requires a willingness to admit we’ve been led astray, and the courage to commit to a new eating paradigm.

Several books have been integral along my path to wellness:  Weston A. Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Ron Schmid’s The Untold Story of Milk, Peter Tompkins & Christopher Bird’s  Secrets of the Soil, Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth, Joel Salatin’s Folks This Ain’t Normal, Mary Enig’s Know Your Fats, and Catherine & Luke Shanahan’s Deep Nutrition.  When you read even one of these authors, you can follow a trail to more information about the inter-connectedness between our physical and mental health, the future health of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and the health of the planet.  Or better still, attend your own Wise Traditions conference and see for yourself.

I believe in freedom.  I believe in the ability to choose. And I, too, advocate for a more just world for us all.  But I see so clearly now, that I have a crucial role to play in exercising freedom. Even in our global economy, justice is locally determined.  What does that mean?  It means we must orient ourselves to prop up the places where we live—to be accountable to our homes and communities, and, yes, that includes our own bodies.  And as funny as it may sound, one of the most radical changes in the direction of freedom you can make can be as simple as what’s on your plate for dinner.

REFERENCES

Gedgaudas, Nora T.  Primal Body, Primal Mind. 2009. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vermont.

The Weston A. Price Foundation (leaflet) for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts.  “Principles of Healthy Diets”. 1999.  (www.westonaprice.org)

Adult knowledge and the new person you’ve become

Spiritual growth and evolution come from the experience of adult knowledge.  Adult knowledge has nothing to do with the experience or witnessing of savage violence.  That kind of violence only breeds fear, chaos, and confusion in the mind.  It draws the spirit backward in evolution and the soul downward.  But true adult knowledge connects you with the cycle and process of life.  This knowledge can also be called, rites of passage because it is a “passing through”.  All children innately know pleasure, freedom, and joy.  These are our birth rites.  But life gives us adult knowledge.  Examples of Adult knowledge comes through these activities and experiences:

Growing food—Tending plant life—Preparing meals—Hunting for food—Butchering meat—Raising livestock—Milking an animal or watching it give birth—Caring for animals—Building a home—Helping a family survive—Starting a fire from nothing and tending it for heat or purification—Saving a life—Tending a sick person or animal—Having first sexual congress—Going through pregnancy—Having a miscarriage—Giving birth—Nursing a child—Being responsible for the life of a child—Witnessing a baby being born—Watching a person die—Having someone close to you die—Having a near death experience 

You are never the same after you have done these things.  These experiences are rites, and they give you knowledge.  This knowledge can never be taken away.  What you learn is unique to yourself, but you now have an adult “knowing”.  These experiences teach you about the web of life.  These are nature’s lessons, the lessons of life—lessons from our Mother.

My rites of passage has come from being a mother.  There is so much to know in fully participating in the experience of motherhood.  In growing a child; in laboring & then pushing them out; in establishing good breastfeeding and then nursing them for months or years; in sleeping beside them; in being with them day in and day out.  I am Selu, the Corn Mother who dies for her children again and again so they may eat and have life.  I have died for my children over and over.  Like my mother did for me, and her mother did for her.  I now have the knowledge of the Mother Goddess.  I can see through Her eyes.  I see what life is.  This is not just adult knowledge.  This is divine knowledge.  The complete knowledge of oneness and connectedness.  The knowledge of how we are one, and how through my children, I will live forever.

I have put my vitamins, my minerals, my blood into my children.  I have put my actual thoughts into them, my vital energy.  My body is a whole new body.  I have given my children Form.  They are little pieces and little extensions of me.  A piece of my soul lives in all of them.  Birth—Death—Rebirth. The circle is complete.

Raw Milk Revolution

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I deliberately raise my children.  All of the major decisions I have and continue to make are well, thought-out, researched, intuited, and intended decisions.  I listen to and observe how others have done things, I pull from my childhood experiences, I read books and current articles on the subject, and then I assess from all the data, and from trial and error, what works and what doesn’t.  I have a very educated and rational mind.  Things have to make sense to me in order to pursue them. 

Nowadays, there is so much information out there.  So many things to choose from.   So many opinions masquerading as facts and lies masquerading as truth.   It is hard to know what is true and what isn’t. What is real and what is not.  I made it a mission to be able to know, to discern, to feel truth.  To do that, I had to find what was basic, what was fundamental to life.  That is how I found –and still find—my way to truth.  Nothing makes you want this more that giving birth for the first time, or facing your own mortality. 

Fundamental:  A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.  It is a foundation.  When assessing truth, I break things down to their essential parts.  Decisions that I make have a rational and scientific basis, but they are also intuitive, spiritual, and emotional.  I take everything into consideration.  I know that I’ve found something real when all those areas are satisfied—my scientific, ecological, humanistic, socio-political, spiritual, and emotional selves.  That is how I know what is true and what is real. 

Take my decision to drink raw milk.  I have researched this issue for years.  I have discovered that the health benefits far exceed the potential risks of drinking it because the “official” risks are based upon fear and the myths surrounding it (especially among high-up institutions like the FDA and USDA).    I can see the tangible results of drinking raw versus pasteurized milk.  My children don’t have cavities, their teeth are straight, they don’t have allergies.  They are beautiful and intelligent.  Their health is sound.  My own bones and teeth are superior to that of my peers.  Our bodies are thriving.  So my scientific/bio self is satisfied. 

I buy my milk direct from a local Georgia farmer who uses sustainable and healthy farming practices to harvest this milk.  His cows graze on pasture, eating grass and live happy, productive lives.  The grass is the food designed by nature for their bodies to eat, so their milk and meat are biologically superior to store-bought.  Their manure naturally fertilizes the grass to keep the soil rich and the grass growing.  (No chemical fertilizers poisoning our soil, rivers, and oceans).  I get to look into the eyes of the man (and the cows) who puts his life energy into harvesting a superior nutrient dense food, and I compensate him appropriately in a thoroughly gratifying commercial exchange.   I’m supporting an individual, a family, a community—a whole ecological system.  Wow!  My socio-political, activist, and ecological selves are all satisfied.

I’ve always been drawn to milk and dairy products such as butter and cheese, and it feels like I’m eating “real” food.  My intuitive self is satisfied.  Milk is the nourishment of life symbolically and literally.  My breasts are the placenta that nourishes my babies—keeping them alive and making them thrive—when they are born and as they grow.  After I can no longer produce milk, I replace mine with a cow’s milk (another mother) so that my family can continue to thrive.   Milk, the Milky Way, the nectar of the universe.  My spiritual self is satisfied. 

I feel happy when I drink milk.  My body is flooded with a multitude of “good-feeling” hormones when I drink it.  My emotional self is satisfied.  Our ancestors have drunk fresh, raw milk from cows raised on pasture for thousands of years.  And they have thrived.  The circle is complete.  Now I KNOW, I FEEL, and I DRINK Truth.

This is the reasoning, and the basis that I use to understand what is true and what is real.  In a world filled with endless information, contradicting facts, and fear-based indoctrination, we better get in tune with what is REAL.  Our lives, our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives depend on it–the fate of the world lies in our ability NOW to figure out what is REAL.  Line up the energy, and then make your life-altering decisions.

 

What's up with teens?

Teenagers. I have a teenager.  I have teenage nephews and nieces.  I have been observing this group of youngsters for awhile now.  One thing I am thoroughly convinced about is that this the most useless bunch of folks I’ve ever seen.  They consume everything and give back nothing.  They are all about instant gratification.  In the age of smart phones, facebook, twitter, instagram, and texting—all they know is instant access to whatever they want.  They go to school and are taught to memorize useless facts for standardized tests.  They are taught to do the minimum amount necessary just for a grade.  They demand to be taken here and there, to eat this or that.  Many are already strung out on Starbucks expressos.  Parents are socially pressured into giving-in to their teens.  Teenagers are spoiled, unappreciative, ungrateful, rude—frankly they are assholes.  They’re useless.  They get into so much trouble from not having anything useful to do.  And it’s our fault. 

There is a gold mine of potential—physical, mental, spiritual—inside every young adult.  Their muscles and their minds have been collecting dust. They should have a purpose and a function.  It’s time we put these wonderful people back to good use.  By the age of 3, children can have a definite role in the world.  They can become participators, helpers, and supporters—not just takers and receivers. 

In the past, children 3 or 4 years helped with simple chores like collecting firewood, folding clothes, beating the bugs out of the bed spreads, picking things off of the floor.  They were their parents’ arm extensions (as mine are for me right now).  Growing food, tending pets and livestock, sewing and hemming, shoveling manure and hay—all of these were necessary young people tasks for our ancestors.  Almost all of our “problems” with teenagers could be solved by putting them to good use—giving them a role, an identity, a function.  They need to feel like productive members of society.  They need to feel like they belong here.  And they need to know what is expected of them.

So how can teens be useful?  Thank you, I’d thought you’d never ask.  For starters, they need to work.  I don’t mean working at Chic-Fil-A or Forever 21.  Young people should first learn how to garden, prepare food, or to tend to animals.  Food is the first necessity of life.  Young people should be able to take care of something—something that doesn’t respond to the push of a button—and feed themselves—not just shop or pull-up for take-out. 

Gardening and raising animals teaches one about reciprocity, ecology, life systems, interconnectedness, fragility, and responsibility.  Some young people can even learn about sustainable fishing.  Some can be responsible for teaching the younger children.  Our adults don’t have to take up all those roles, let these teens teach the younger ones.  Older kids can teach younger kids how to read or even how to perform smaller tasks.  Adults should supervise, train, and evaluate the older kids.  That should be our primary role.  Put those kids to good use!  Make them give back. 

Young people could each be in charge of a project.  It could be collecting all of the community food waste and then managing the organic compost for community gardens. They can organize children sports festivities and competitions.  They can oversee electronics recycling initiatives.  They can start training to become midwives, work on tractors or other big machinery that helps folks move, build, or work on their homes.  And they can even earn money from doing this  (when they have taken the initiative to organize services on their own).  We need their innovation, their energy, their enthusiasm—all that comes from being new to life.  These are just a few examples of tasks that add to the quality of life to a community.  The possibilities are endless with this group.  Whatever task or skill, the ultimate goal should be for young people to feel the consequences of their actions.  That is how we raise productive, conscious, and responsible members of society.  Let’s turn them from teenagers back into young adults.  Then we can all once again be eager to work with this group of bright young minds and pure spirits.