Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: Happy, Healthy Pregnancy Cookbook

It's no secret that a healthy diet is extremely important during pregnancy. Every pregnancy book ever devotes a substantial section to food: how much, which nutrients, what to avoid.

Okay, but what should a pregnant mama be eating instead?

There are plenty of lists of pregnancy superfoods out there, but some readers want just a little bit more guidance. That's where a book like Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook can help!

This little book is a great guide to the best ways a woman can nourish her body during pregnancy. The beginning talks about basic stuff: weight gain, superfoods, vital nutrients, ways readers can encourage themselves to do more cooking. The real "meat," as it were, of this book lies in the recipe section.

Registered dietitians Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh offer readers more than one hundred recipes that will nourish women during this important time. These are recipes that are well-balanced and include a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats, and thus plenty of nutrients for a growing baby.

Better yet, the chapters are organized by common pregnancy symptom. Feeling nauseous? Try some Avocado Toast with healthy fats and B vitamins, or Quinoa-Veggie "Cheeseburgers" with plenty of protein without the smell of cooking meat. Fighting off cravings? Satisfy your sweet tooth with Peanut Butter, Apple, and Chickpea Breakfast Cookies. Third-trimester heartburn got you down? Recipes like Confetti Sweet Potato Hash or Lentil and Pumpkin Soup will provide a hearty sense of satisfaction while avoiding common triggers like onion or tomatoes.

Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook has such a thoughtful, useful premise, and it's full of recipes that will appeal to the whole family. This book is sure to be enjoyed by anyone who is struggling with eating well during pregnancy, anyone who is hoping that some dietary changes might alleviate common pregnancy symptoms, and anyone who just wants some new ideas to pack in the nutrition.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: Tox-Sick

In this modern era, we are literally surrounded by poisons.

That's one of the primary messages that well-known author Suzanne Somers wants readers to take away from her new book, Tox-Sick: From Toxic to Not Sick. Not only are we surrounded by poisons, but our bodies are, quite simply, becoming overwhelmed by them. Decades of exposure to pesticides, genetically-modified food, chemicals in carpets and furniture and cars, fluoride in water, unnecessary medications, and more have taken a toll on the bodies of many once they reach the tipping point. People are feeling tired, bloated, foggy-headed, achy, and sick.

If you're ready for a change, like Somers was, read on.

Tox-Sick delves into many of the biggest health issues we face today, issues that many people aren't even aware of (unless they've been directly affected). Somers gets into some of the deeper causes of cancer, and discusses how detoxification is necessary to avoid (or beat) it. She talks about toxic mold, why it's become such a problem in recent years, and what to do if you encounter it. She talks about nutrition, and how the "low-fat" craze has not done us any favors. She talks about antibiotics, and how they wipe out the good alongside the bad. She talks about what supplements you should be taking to support your immune system, your liver, your thyroid, and the rest of your body.

Most readers will find themselves learning a lot, and there's a good chance that a number of book titles will be added to the "to read" list. The majority of the information in Tox-Sick is delivered via interviews between Somers and various health professionals, experts who have ventured off the beaten path and have found themselves specializing in true health care. Many of these doctors have written their own books, which will no doubt be sought out by readers who recognize themselves and their problems in these pages.

To be honest, though, the fact that so much is told through interviews is one of my biggest problems with the book. While the information in Tox-Sick is fascinating, the Q&A format makes for rather tedious reading at times. I understand that Somers wanted a lot of this information to be coming directly from the experts, but I still can't help but feel that there must have been a better way to accomplish this than through verbatim interviews. As a copyeditor, I'm also a little bothered by the lack of proper citations. There is a "Further Reading" section at the end, as well as a bibliography, but it would be nice to know which specific sources were used for each chapter.

Overall, this book doesn't quite live up to my expectations. Somers missed a lot of opportunities to educate readers on some big issues. Tox-Sick is written to be provocative, yes, but it also toes the line on a number of topics that readers would benefit from knowing more about. One example is fluoride. Somers makes a point of telling readers to avoid fluoridated water, but doesn't go into any detail why; the mainstream audience that this book is intended for likely doesn't know much of anything about fluoride except what their dentist has been telling them for years. Another example is vaccines. Several times, either Somers or her interviewees allude to the toxins within vaccines, at one point even talking about how "over-vaccinating" has made us sicker. That's as far as this book dares to go, but there is still a lot left unsaid here, a lot that readers might be curious to know.
"Within hours of emerging from the womb, a newborn is given a dollop of antibiotics in the eyes, injected with the hepatitis B vaccine, with known neurotoxic properties, and jabbed with a vitamin K shot, which contains 9 mg of benzyl alcohol. In 1992, Golding published concerns that vitamin K injections could be associated with a doubled risk of malignant disease in children, particularly leukemia. While there have been considerable doubts about whether the association is coincidental or casual, the controversy has never been completely resolved."
All three of those "standard" newborn procedures are quite controversial. In some circles, anyway. This is just another missed opportunity to dig deeper.

In the end, though, Tox-Sick is a good read, packed with great information that will hopefully get people thinking and inspire them to take charge of their own health. The personal stories that Somers presents from her own family are heartbreaking, and the case studies from some of the doctors will give readers hope for their future. This is a great introduction to a number of issues that many don't even realize they're affected by. Here's hoping that Somers can help turn the tide.
"It's time for us to grow up and realize that nobody's going to save us; we've got to save ourselves. It's up to each of us to control the amount of our individual toxic exposures. To live and thrive, we need to truly think about every product we use and every bite of food we take."

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed within are completely my own.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: Punderdome

Puns are a way of life. For some people, anyway.

For some of us, the puns just flow. Puns about food, puns about jobs, puns about current events. If you fall into this category of people, a game like Punderdome is right up your alley.

This game is literally all about puns. Making them, laughing at them, judging which of them is funniest. The game play goes in rounds, with the person leading the round--the Prompter--changing each turn.Each round starts with a Quick Pun, which is simple Q&A style pun: "Why did Mozart and Bach get in trouble in school?" While a sample answer is provided ("They were caught passing notes."), players might be able to come up with something more creative.

The centerpiece of each round is the prompt section. The Prompter has two cards which each contain a single-subject prompt: pets, dieting, presidents, farting, putting on a play, facial hair. Each player than has 90 seconds to create a pun linking those two words together. The instructions offer advice for making puns for newbies, and there is also a card that contains examples for those who need an idea of how to combine topics.

So it's a simple game. The real question: is it fun? Heck yes it is! Well, if you're good at puns, it is. Or if you're just good at creative thinking. Or even if you're just opening to working on developing those punny skills. For many, it could very well take a few rounds of gameplay (or alcohol?) to get in the right mindset so that the puns are flowing. For others, this kind of wordplay is easy as pie. But Punderdome has the potential to be lots of fun for anyone who dares to give it a shot.

I received this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed within are completely my own.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: Against All Grain Celebrations

Paleo is a relatively new way of eating, and despite the abundance of blogs that have jumped on board with the idea, many who follow Paleo have a hard time with family get-togethers. This is all the more apparent at this time of year, with Thanksgiving and the winter holidays right around the corner.

 Blogger Danielle Walker has been there, and she knows exactly how you feel. Over the years that she's been running her blog, Against All Grain, Walker has shared all kinds of recipes that readers have utilized for birthdays, picnics, and holidays. In her new book, Danielle Walker's Against All Grain: Celebrations, she shares a diverse collection of tested and true recipes that are certain to help readers navigate any number of parties and, well, celebrations.

The book is organized by occasion, with each holiday or gathering offering a complete meal spread. Valentine's Day has ideas for fun, child-friendly foods (Cupid's Arrow Pancakes, Lunch Box Love) as well as a more adult dinner for two (Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip-Turnip Puree, Salted Caramel-Chocolate Panna Cotta). Baby showers, wedding showers, or other fun summer get-togethers can be celebrated with Lemon Lavender Bundt Cakes or Ahi Tartare on Taro Chips. There are plenty of different cake options for birthday parties, delicious BBQ recipes for a game-day cookout, and a Thanksgiving spread that features all the classics (Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots; Smoky Candied Bacon Sweet Potatoes; Braised and Roasted Turkey; and, of course, three kinds of pie).

Every single recipe fits into a Paleo diet (although readers are always able to substitute ingredients as fits their individual eating habits). Every recipe is grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free; many are egg-free, nut-free, or nightshade-free, and a number of them can also be utilized by those who are following SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) or GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet).

Readers are going to LOVE this cookbook! The instructions are all very straight-forward, there is extensive information about the ingredients Walker uses (for those who are unfamiliar), there is helpful information about ingredient substitution and making dishes ahead of time, and nutritional data is even available about every recipe on Walker's blog. Whether you are gluten-free, grain-free, or full-on Paleo, this book will make every holiday and family gathering so much easier.

I received this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed within are completely my own.

Friday, February 3, 2017

An Rh Sensitized Pregnancy (Part 2)

It has long been a mantra of the natural birth birth community that "women's bodies aren't broken." And long have I subscribed to that idea, since I was pregnant with my son and even through both of my miscarriages.

Even now, I still believe it, at least in the sense it was originally intended. Our bodies do indeed know how to give birth, for the most part. When left to their own devices, most women with low-risk pregnancies will go into labor on their own, and given enough time and the right support, birth will eventually happen with no or minimal intervention.

The key word there, of course, is low-risk. More than halfway through a high-risk pregnancy, my perspective on the general not-brokenness of my body has changed.

Almost 26 weeks!

When your baby is in danger from your own body... When your own immune system views your baby as a threat that it may eventually do its best to eliminate... Well, excuse me if it feels sometimes like my body is indeed quite broken.


About three weeks ago, I missed a phone call from my doctor, and was rewarded with an ominous-sounding message: "I need to talk to you about your most recent titer test."

We all know that if the news had been benign, she would have just said so in the message. Heck, for most of my blood tests, I never received any kind of call at all, as my doctors apparently subscribed to the idea that no news is good news. So when I received a call regarding my latest blood test, and that call came not from a nurse or the most recent OB I had seen but from my perinatologist (high-risk doctor), you'll forgive me for immediately assuming the worst.

Well, it wasn't the worst, but it wasn't good, either. My titer--my blood antibodies against Rh(+) blood--had just jumped up. For the first few months of my pregnancy, those antibodies were barely detectable, and now they were suddenly in the range that meant I--and more importantly, my baby--required more intensive monitoring. My doctor immediately referred me to a new doctor at a new hospital, an hour away but where they had more experience dealing with Rhesus isoimmunization.

So a few days later, the whole family set off on a long morning drive to see someone new. I had another ultrasound, just as extensive as the typical "anatomy scan" already done at my normal hospital just a few weeks prior, and more bloodwork done, since apparently every new hospital wants to type my blood and establish their own baseline when it comes to my antibody count rather than just relying solely on the medical records they have received for me.

Then, we sat down to talk with the newest high-risk doctor on my team and to get an idea of what we could expect from here on out.

The current prognosis: baby is not in danger. Yet. But we will be monitoring her/him much more closely for the remainder of my pregnancy.

The current prescription: more ultrasounds. Lots more ultrasounds. Weekly ultrasounds.

Monitoring the MCA

It looks like, for the foreseeable future, I will be alternating between my "normal" hospital and the higher-risk hospital for those ultrasounds. Most of them will be rather quick and to-the-point, checking just a handful of things that may or may not indicate anemia:
  • The velocity of the blood flow through the medial cerebral artery (MCA), which is one of the arteries in the brain. If the blood is flowing too fast, it's an indication of the blood being too thin, which is a potential marker for anemia. It doesn't mean baby is suffering from anemia in and of itself, but as the doctor explained, there is a range considered normal; a faster blood while flow doesn't necessarily mean anemia, every baby he has encountered who had rhesus-disease-based anemia also had a blood flow that was above that average range.
  • Hydrops fetalis, or a buildup of excess fluid (edema) in at least two parts of the baby's body. The places the ultrasound technicians are looking are in the lungs, in the stomach, and around the baby's heart.
  • Swelling of baby's liver or spleen. The liver handles the decomposition of red blood cells; if my immune system is attacking the baby's blood and damaging baby's red blood cells, the liver will be working overtime to deal with the aftermath. An enlarged liver is a sign that baby's body is having a hard time keeping up with the damage my immune system is dishing out. Likewise, the spleen plays a role in disposing of old red blood cells, and an enlarged spleen can indicate that the spleen is working too hard to keep up with what's being demanded of it.
  • The amount of overall amniotic fluid. An excess of amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) is another indicator that Rh disease is starting to become a problem.
Every ultrasound I get will be checking those things, and if the doctors see any combination of things to concern them, then I will potentially face more invasive procedures to verify if baby is actually suffering from anemia (via testing a sample of baby's blood taken from the umbilical cord), and then to treat baby (via intrauterine blood transfusions) if that is the case.

The good news is that, barring some sort of complication (there is approximately a 1% chance that, during an intrauterine blood transfusion, a problem will necessitate baby's immediate delivery), I will most likely be able to keep baby inside until she/he reaches term. If blood transfusions become necessary, they will have to happen every three weeks or so, but the doctor specified that they aim to time them so that the final one happens around 35/36 weeks; baby may still require induction if labor doesn't start on its own before 38/39 weeks (note that my son came at 37 and a half weeks entirely of his own volition, but every pregnancy and every baby is different, so who knows how long of a gestation this baby would choose if left to her/his own devices), but an induction at 38/39 weeks is infinitely preferable to an induction at 34 or 36 weeks, as I was initially told was a possibility.

My second high risk doctor doesn't seem interested in doing any further blood work; as he says, my titers are already up and so we will step up the monitoring in response, and it doesn't really change anything to know exactly what the titers are at in the future. On the other hand, my primary high risk doctor (who I will now be seeing for all future regular prenatal checkups, instead of OBs and nurses from the standard OB/GYN group) sees value in continuing to monitor my titers; while they're in a concern-causing range now, and have only gone up in the past few weeks, it would be a good sign if they either stabilized or started to decrease again. So it looks like I get to continue being a pincushion, but only part-time.


So we'll see how things go from here on out. Optimistically, ultrasounds will be the extent of baby's additional monitoring, everything will continue to look normal, and I'll be able to go into labor naturally and have the nice, normal birth I want. But that is far from a guarantee at this point. There's still a pretty high likelihood that induction will be necessary, and a slight chance still of a premature baby if complications occur at some point.

All in all, a high risk pregnancy is the pits. It's unpredictable and completely out of my control, which makes it that much more stressful for me; about the only thing I feel I have any control over at this point is keeping baby's sex a secret until birth, and even that is in danger should any individual ultrasound technician forget my wishes and reveal the sex during one of my many upcoming scans.. For the time being, I am trying to remain focused on my joy at having this baby in my uterus, my excitement at eventually getting to meet her/him, and the knowledge that I have a solid team of doctors overseeing my care and doing everything possible to ensure a healthy outcome.

That's about all I can do. Stay strong, little baby! We're more than halfway there!


See more: