Hello from 13,000 feet up in the Andes: Part 3

I just returned from a tour of a hospital in Cusco, Peru. If anyone who reads this site / blog thinks I am anti-doctor, I’m not. I am teaching a nutrition clinic to a pediatrics practice on Jan. 15 at home. But I just gained a newfound appreciation for medical care in America. I think we should use it less, especially drugs, especially antibiotics and steroids. But I’m so thankful we have access to some of the best medical care in the world. It was a shock to see Western medicine practiced in such a primitive way.

In the obstetrics unit, the mothers are packed 6 to a room. The maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world according to the World Health Organization, in the Andean countries: Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. That’s because the women are tiny, and cervical size is directly proportional to body size. In addition to poor medical care in general, many Peruvian women are only 4′ tall, so many are lost in childbirth because of short cervixes where doctors are unable to stop bleeding. The equipment in the OB wing of the Cusco hospital is ancient, the hospital far from sterile and some might even say dirty, there are no incubators, babies must sleep with their mothers, and we gringos were allowed to wander through with our guide, an obstetrics nurse who helps run the orphanage.

Peasant mothers don’t know when they will deliver because they haven’t received any medical care, so they come down out of the mountains and often end up at the hospital for weeks, waiting, all funded by the Peruvian government.

We gave hand-knitted hats and newborn kits to the new mothers, who let us photograph their beautiful babies. One woman’s baby had died, and her daughter was sleeping on the dirty floor next to her, surrounded by other expectant and recently delivered mamas.

Then, with no warning, we were ushered into the delivery room of a first-time mother giving birth. When I realized what we were seeing, I asked my daughter, only 14, and the other 14 y.o. girl with us, if they really wanted to watch a birth, and they did. I am frankly ecstatic that they saw that. What they saw may be more helpful in discouraging poor choices than the semester of Teen Living my daughter just took, where she carried around a fake baby with batteries that cried (very annoyingly) and peed. My daughter said afterward, ”I am never having children.” She’ll get over that, but it is well documented that women with education have babies later (improving the children ´s and family ´s quality of life), and women who have babies later have more education.

Not that seeing the birth wasn’t beautiful. It was. We got to see a human being take its first breath, utter its first cry, and I was deeply moved. This mother had no anaesthesia of any kind, but didn’t make a sound. One of the midwives was putting her entire body weight on the mother’s belly to shove the baby into the world. We watched an episiotomy. We watched the six women around the mother yell, ”Es varoncito!” It’s a baby boy!

The midwives and Eunice, our nurse friend who works on the unit, dragged Linda in to take photos. We gringos (the men were down the hall, declining to watch) were horrified and begged her to come out and not take photos of this very private event. So Linda came back out, but Eunice grabbed her camera and began snapping away. We realized later that Eunice wanted that young mother to have the photos, for us to send them to her. She was there alone, no husband or boyfriend, no parents or siblings or friend–and no camera. Some of the peasant women we photographed have never owned a photo of themselves or their children.

We walked through an emergency room with appalling conditions: patients lying on stretchers with IV’s surrounded by sick people, even some with basins in their laps to throw up in–the waiting room and treatment room were one and the same. Husbands and boyfriends and children sleeping in corners and hallways everywhere.

I’m glad clean and efficient medical care is available in my country when we need it. I couldn’t help but say under my breath a few times in the hospital, ”Please God let none of us get sick in this country.” I have been rather blessed that way. All but a few of the Americans in our expedition have been ill with altitude sickness, diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms. I’ve been totally healthy and even have been eating lettuce salads we were warned against, and using tap water to brush my teeth.

Emma threw up at the entrance to Machu Picchu (”I threw up on one of the 8 Wonders of the World,” she likes to say) but hiked all day and has been otherwise fine.

extra ingredients for green smoothies [part 9 of 9]

Bee pollen

Bee pollen has been a fascination of European researchers for a long time.   The dust from the stamen of blossoming plants collected from bees is fairly well documented to improve a lot of things most of us care about.   First of all, it increases your energy throughout the day and stamina for physical activity–it’s a powerhouse nutritionally, with 35 percent protein.

It has natural weight loss properties that have been mimicked chemically in various weight-loss drug remedies.   Bee pollen not only stimulates metabolism, but also suppresses appetite naturally.   It slows aging and prevents cancerous tumors from developing.

It also contains a gonadotropic sex hormone and contributes to improved sexual performance and reduction of PMS symptoms.   Perhaps most interestingly, it may prevent seasonal allergies, like eating raw honey allegedly does, but in a more direct way and without the blood sugar impact.   If you can buy it collected from multiple sources instead of one source, that’s a better product.   Bee pollen is a fantastic ingredient to add to a green smoothie.   I like to get it from All Star Health on Amazon, because (a) the price is good, (b) it’s very fresh and not dry like other sources, and (c) they collect from around the U.S. so it’s not just one geographic area’s bees, which I feel is best for allergy prevention.

Wheat grass juice (fresh or powdered)

Wheat grass was first famously studied and used extensively by Ann Wigmore, founder of Optimum Health Institute and a pioneer of many therapies still used now, 50 years later, in natural healing.   She wrote The Wheatgrass Book, documenting its megapowerful healing properties.

If I had cancer, the first thing I would do is begin growing, juicing, and drinking wheat grass daily.   Nothing compares to it nutritionally, for oxygenating and healing.   I have juiced wheat grass in a few periods of my life (including an early pregnancy, which may have been part of my current problem with it), and I would continue the habit if it weren’t simply the most awful-tasting thing on this planet.   Not everyone agrees with my assessment, fortunately, so give it a try.

In the event you can’t stomach the fresh juice, more and more companies are dehydrating the juice under 118 degrees and selling it as a powder.   While I find this to be too much in a green smoothie, some people like it.   I prefer to see people add this ingredient to water to alkalize their cells and energize throughout the day, since your green smoothie already provides many of the ingredients concentrated in wheat grass, in other green ingredients.

Generally speaking, wheat grass is juiced and the remaining grass discarded because its fiber is not digestible by the human stomach.   The juicers we used ten years ago are less than efficient at getting the juice from the grass, which is digestible only by a four-chambered stomach such as in a cow.   However, completely liquefied wheat grass such as occurs in a BlendTec Total Blender may render unnecessary the expensive, labor-intensive, and messy process we used to go through with specialized wheat grass juicers.

extra ingredients for green smoothies [part 2 of 7]

We had a very informative teleseminar on alkaline water and the group buy on IONIZERS tonight!   Watch here for the recorded seminar tomorrow, and the prices / offer of a free shower filter (removing chlorine, etc.) tomorrow–the DEALER PRICES are good through Fri. midnight.

On to more green smoothie ingredients you should try:

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is an inexpensive extra ingredient is something I would encourage everyone to use in green smoothies, except pregnant women until further testing is done for that population.   I keep an aloe vera plant in my windowsill for quick and effective treatment of burns or scrapes.   (You simply cut a spear from the plant, slice it in half, and rub the inner pulp on the sunburn or stovetop/curling iron burn for dramatic healing.)   You can buy these plants in nurseries, and they grow wild in some climates, such as in Arizona.

Aloe vera has been extensively studied for its immune-stimulating effects, and hundreds of research papers have been published documenting some very interesting benefits.   One I find most interesting is the fact that it contains Vitamin B12, one of the only plant-based sources of this nutrient, so adding this ingredient to smoothies can help vegans and vegetarians achieve complete nutrition.   Additionally, the plant has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.   It heals ulcers and reduces asthma symptoms.

I often cut a large spear, wash it, and throw it in my green smoothie as well.   Having your own plant is inexpensive, compared to the slightly processed and nutritionally inferior product you can buy in health food stores.   (It’s still excellent nutrition, in the jug from the health food store, just not as powerful as a spear from the raw plant.)   A small amount is best, as you can overdo with this ingredient and cause too much bowel stimulation, especially if you are new to green smoothies and transitioning from a fairly typical American diet.


Ginger is an ingredient I add to my smoothies almost daily.   The most inexpensive place I find to buy it is Asian stores, and I always pick some up when I stop by the Asian market for my cases of young Thai coconuts.   The unpeeled ginger “roots” last a few weeks in the fridge.   (I also look through their interesting greens selection while I’m at the Asian market and take home some cabbages, for variety in green smoothies.)   Fresh ginger is not actually a root, but rather an underground stem.   You peel the brown outer layer off and add an inch or two, or more, to any smoothie.   It adds a lovely flavor, but it also has powerful anti-inflammatory, digestive-function strengthening, and anti-nausea properties.   It’s a great natural remedy for motion sickness, morning sickness, and intestinal gas.   If someone struggles with feeling nauseous while starting a green-smoothie habit, I recommend adding as much ginger as you can.   It is a warming herb and helps stimulate blood circulation and promotes decongestion, and it can help knock down a fever.



green smoothies and calories

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:   I am nursing  my three-month old daughter and at the same time trying to lose the rest of my baby weight (I have about 43 pounds to lose…I gained 70 . . . oops!).   I have been trying to incorporate the smoothies into my diet, but it seems that I do not lose in the weeks when I am very consistent with drinking them.   This is what I am typically eating:


hot pink breakfast smoothie

1 small homemade pumpkin muffin (with wholegrain flour and agave nectar)


1/2 portion of whatever we had for dinner the night before (we are vegans, so usually some kind of veggie soup, stew, etc….always low fat)

1  quart green smoothie


vegan dinner…small portion

1 small homemade muffin


i also drink 2 cups of decaf chai and mother’s milk teas with stevia and a splash of vanilla almond milk


I am 6 feet tall and weigh approx 225 lbs (weighed 185 when I conceived, but would like to get back down to 165 eventually) and work out a few times a week.


I love drinking the smoothies, but am worried about the scale not moving down when I am drinking them . . . should I make my lunch only the smoothie and not any leftovers?


Answer:   I’m not a fan of strict calorie counting, but it helps to know some essential information.   First, your body can handle 600 to 800 calories at a time.   So, when we eat a huge meal of well over 800 calories, the body has to store some of that food energy as fat.


Second, a quart of green smoothie (good job!) is about 400 calories, or 500 if you’re adding a Tbsp. of flax oil.   So just keep an eye on that.   It’s obviously very nutritionally dense and low in calories.   If your leftovers portion is 600 calories, however, you might want to eat a smaller amount.

In general, your menu sounds good.   So, third, if you are eating in accordance with principles of good nutrition, not overeating, and not indulging in processed foods, and you are still not losing weight you need to lose, then my next suggestion for you would be to have your thyroid checked.   Don’t go to your OB/GYN or a standard lab for this.   Find a clinic specializing in women’s hormones, and the practitioner may be a nurse.   Have a full blood panel run, because the T3 measurement your OB/GYN would likely have you test does not tell the whole story.   You will need to have your blood workup analyzed for a fairly complex interplay of a number of factors, including T4 and some other hormones that work with your thyroid.


If you are one of the burgeoning number of women suffering from low thyroid (estimates seem to fall about 25% of American women), ask to be prescribed a bioidentical thyroid hormone rather than a synthetic drug (like Cytomel or Synthroid).   The natural bioidenticals are also cheaper than the drugs, since you can’t patent a natural substance.

The Essential GreenSmoothieGirl Library . . . part 8

More important books for parents to own:


Denise Punger, M.D. is a GreenSmoothieGirl 12 Stepper and a brave new voice in modern medicine.   She’s a board certified doctor married to another medical doctor, but she’s also a mother who has breastfed for 12 years and delivered her last baby via home birth.   She’s an advocate of home birth, doulas, breastfeeding, and trusting a mother’s instincts.   Her Permission to Mother: Going Byond the Standard-of-Care to Nurture Our Children is an important book for young mothers to own.



Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food are geared towards teens.   Give your kid an incentive to read one or both of these books.   My 11- and 13-year old kids loved these best-selling exposes and never wanted to set foot in a fast-food establishment again.   Okay, they never set foot in fast-food establishments anyway, except to make a bathroom stop on a trip.   They inspired my oldest daughter to become a vegetarian, and she later converted her sister.   Written for preteens and teens, this is an excellent education in why you want to avoid all fast food.   I overheard my daughter after she read Chew On This telling a friend regarding the friend’s sugar habit, “You know that children diagnosed with diabetes by the age of 8 shorten their lives by 25-30 years, don’t you?”   (Heh heh, my evil educational plot is working!)   Too bad the author states in the introduction that his favorite meal is a fast food burger.



Ron Seaborn’s The Children’s Health Food Book is a seriously weird book!   A friend recommended it to me, and when I picked it up at a health food store, my then-four-year old son went crazy for it.   I read it to him several times a day, because he begged me non-stop, until I just couldn’t take it any more and was making up my own words.   The antiheroes are the Starch Creature, the Dairy Goon, the Meat Monster, and the Sugar Demon.   Of course, the vegetable, fruit, and whole-grain superheroes come in and save the day.   This book is good for younger kids–just beware that the preschool teacher might call you and say your kid is scaring the other kids by pointing out how bad their snacks are (this actually happened to me).

cardiovascular health: nature vs. nurture

I went to give blood today, hoping that my always-borderline hematocrit was high enough.   It was.   Though one point lower and I’d have been rejected–again.   Like most other things the RDA does, those hematocrit averages aren’t based on the ideal, but rather the average.   The averages are, of course, of a heavily meat-eating population with (IMO) a too-high iron concentration in the blood.   By USRDA standards, though, a 120-lb. woman needs 44 grams of protein daily, and a 150-lb. man needs 55 grams.   The average American gets 100 grams daily!   A higher hematocrit is just one result of the tragic false education of the American public that has led to a lethal diet.

As usual, the Red Cross worker took my resting heart rate, and then took it again.   Do you exercise a LOT, she asked?   Well, six days a week, I answered.   Then she called the supervisor over to do an override, since the computer does not believe them when they input my resting heart rate of 45.   The supervised asked: are you a runner?    I answered in the affirmative.

 Sure, good heredity plays a part.   It’s nice to have blood that moves languidly through clean blood vessels, not straining inflamed heart muscle.

But according to the literature, environmental influences play a much bigger role in heart disease than genetic ones do, and fortunately, you can control that with five things.   Don’t drink or smoke, and bring your weight into the healthy range.   Get the blood pumping and muscles and heart toned with exercise: ideally, three things:

 (1)         cardio (walking, running, Stairmaster, aerobics)

(2)          weight-bearing (Nautilus and free weights)

(3)         lengthening and toning (yoga or Pilates).

And of course, eat more unrefined plant foods and fewer animal and refined foods.

Thing is, I didn’t have good cardiovascular measurements at ALL when I was 26 years old.   I got pregnant after 5 years of trying, lost one of my twin babies in the first trimester, and was afraid to so much as sneeze thereafter.   I didn’t exercise, the whole pregnancy.   I indulged all my demonic cravings–for stuff I’d never eaten in my life.   Burgers/fries and 7-11 nachos were my two favorites.   (Haven’t eaten either one before or since–go figure!)   Sometimes at night I’d eat half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.      

You guessed it: I gained 65 lbs. during the pregnancy, had horrible edema (swelling) and drastically increased blood pressure.   I basically sat around like Jabba the Hut, watching TV and bossing the poor guy who got me pregnant (I figured he owed me), and my sister (who was entirely innocent), to get me stuff.   People don’t believe me, so I haul out the photos of the day that sweet little 9-lb. baby was born.   They shriek with horror.  

That’s right.   I was my very own version of Supersize Me, my blood sugar was out of control, and my blood pressure was higher than the national average (120/80), even though I’m usually 95/55).   All that in a few short months.

And DH?   At the time of our wedding, he was 22 years old, a 6’4″ tall, 257-lb. college offensive lineman.   He had high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease (aunt, father, grandparents).   Eating what I fed him (whole plant foods for all but the aforementioned one year), he’s had low cholesterol and very healthy blood pressure for 20 years.

My point? Obviously heredity is not the most predictive factor for heart disease.