I found him on the floor in front of the refrigerator when we were visiting family. He was shaking and couldn’t really get up without help and I panicked as soon as I heard the way he said my name. That’s when I knew that this was not just going away. At the end of our second Texas summer, Stewart’s body was breaking down and we didn’t quite know why, at least not yet.
We had made a lot of compromises in areas of nutrition and health since moving off-grid. Many of these things were supposed to be temporary compromises but a few months dragged into a year which turned into two and here we were. That coupled with intense heat and the massive amount of work to be done in the midst of those temperatures landed Stewart into deep adrenal fatigue with a side of digestive and kidney issues.
It was after he spent six months in bed for much of the day that we learned about arguably one of the more important resources on the homestead. All of the money, resources, and time in the world mean nothing, if you don’t have the health to do the work.
You Can Homestead with Health Issues
During those six to twelve months Stewart was very ill, our homestead progress slowed to a crawl. In addition, we have often made very little progress surrounding the births of our three youngest children. And while many might think we are only able to do this because we are young, I would like to share with you that we know folks homesteading off-grid in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s, many of whom are recently getting started.
Even if you have some health challenges, you may be surprised what you can still do. Just move forward with what you can do. If you are weak, like many of us today, then go forward in weakness. Do less if you have to but don’t give up just because what you are able to do is less. Homesteading can be for everyone and there is no predefined checklist you have to meet.
We mention this because it can be a mental stumbling block to put off homesteading until you are healthier. Likewise, if you think you are too old to start you may give up the dream. If you believe homesteading is for you, don’t be discouraged by your circumstances, but rather work towards it step by step and see where you end up.
It probably comes as no surprise that a family who tries to follow the old paths in homesteading, sustainability, and family life is also interested in alternative health care. Sadly, the medical system today is much like the food system – designed more for the business’s benefit than the health of the customer.
Conventional medicine is not something we would completely dismiss, to be sure. A trip to the ER or family practitioner for broken bones or other medical emergencies certainly has its place. But currently, in the United States, conventional medicine is not designed to help prevent or even treat ailments holistically. On a whole it more of a business than a cure.
Your Health is Food Related
To some this may seem obvious; to others it will be revolutionary. Your health is directly related to what you do eat and perhaps even more so to what you don’t. We did not start to learn about real food and real nutrition until the birth of our first child. We’ve been learning ever since.
The conventional wisdom of the day is always flip flopping. You can’t trust people who tell you for years that eating butter is unhealthy and then come around to realize it is healthy. That eggs are bad and then that eggs are good for you. Common sense tells us that food in its natural form is always going to be better for you than the man-made counterpart. Man doesn’t know best and in his attempts to “improve” things has made things much worse.
What Not to Eat (Or Greatly Reduce)
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or animals fed on them
- Conventional foods sprayed by pesticides
- Water that has fluoride or chlorine in it (or other things you don’t know about)
- Processed foods in general and particularly those that include ingredients you can’t pronounce (chemicals, preservatives, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, etc.)
- Pasteurized and homogenized dairy products
- Vegetable oils (like corn, soy, cottonseed, and peanut oil and particularly the ones made from GMOs)
- Ordinary table salt
What to Eat
- Organic fruits and vegetables, preferably at least some of which you grow yourself so you know exactly how they have been grown
- Grass-fed or naturally raised meat
- Healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, pastured lard, butter, etc.
- Fermented foods and drinks such as kombucha, kefir, sourdough breads, fermented vegetables, and much more. If you are interested in this topic see Shannon’s book Traditionally Fermented Foods.
- Bone broth
- Raw dairy
- Raw honey from bees that are not getting pollen from glyphosate-filled fields.
- Food that you prepare yourself
- Sea Salt
Many people today are starving to death while they are full. The food they eat lacks nutrients to feed their bodies and so even though they are “full” they are nutritionally empty. This is where disease thrives, on a body that has nothing truly to run on. The United States in particular has an abundance of things to put in your mouth but very little actual food to eat. Just look at the percentage of the grocery store that is filled with processed foods, processed drinks, artificial this and artificial that. There isn’t much in the way of real food there as a percentage of the whole store.
“One of the biggest tragedies of human civilization is the precedence of chemical therapy over nutrition. It’s a substitution of artificial therapy over nature, of poisons over food, in which we are feeding people poisons trying to correct the reactions of starvation.” — Dr. Royal Lee, 1951
When Your Body Rejects What Is Healthy…
It is possible that your health is in such a state that eating healthy food will not be tolerated by your body. For example, eggs are good for people, but they may not be good for you right now. How can that be? Well, if your stomach acid is low and you eat a lot of eggs you can develop a mild food allergy to them. So even though eggs are nutritionally good for you your inability to digest food may make them hurt you. This could apply to a range of very healthy foods and is person specific.
This doesn’t mean you will never be able to eat whatever the particular food is ever again, but it may take months or years to heal whatever your body is reacting to. You may need to improve your digestion before you will be able to eat these foods and your body may need a break from them to flush out and reset. If you don’t feel well after eating certain foods then don’t eat them for a time. Take a lot of enzymes to help breakdown undigested foods in your body. Also, try to get your stomach acid up if that is a problem.
It logically follows that if what you eat matters what you prepare the food with does too. Don’t cook with aluminum or any non-stick pots or pans. You are just asking for trouble. Those things will undoubtedly end up in your food even if only in trace amounts. Stainless steel, glass, and cast iron are generally much safer alternatives.
The Best Healthcare – Prevention
It can’t be emphasized enough that the things you consume daily and the actions you take to prevent a health crisis from starting are incredibly important pieces to the puzzle. It is much harder to dig out of a health issue then to take preventative steps. Simple changes can make a huge difference in the long run.
For example, eating small amounts of fermented foods over the years has an accumulated health effect that is probably very difficult to measure, but is there nonetheless. It is also affordable because you can make them yourself. Not eating foods sprayed with pesticides will surely help your liver and kidneys maintain health better than if your body is constantly under a strain to filter out these toxins. Growing and eating at least some of your own food reduces the burden on your budget while improving your health in the process. Prevention is the cheapest route in dealing with your health. It is also the best. For us homesteaders on a budget you really can’t afford to ignore your health before it goes bad.
And in the case that you do partner with a practitioner, you want to look for the doctor of the future that Thomas Edison spoke of when he said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
Grow Your Own Medicine
It is very empowering when you realize that you don’t have to take drugs to cover up health issues. When you begin to realize that you can take direct steps to treat underlying causes and that you don’t have to pay someone else to provide the medicine. There are many plants that have medicinal uses that you can grow in your own garden. In fact, by growing these common culinary herbs, you are growing medicine as well.
Basil, particularly Holy Basil – Most of us are familiar with sweet basil, but there are many varieties. All basils contain anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Tulsi, or holy basil, is particularly effective as an immune boosting tea. Many residents of India keep tulsi plants in their homes and gardens and drink the tea or eat the leaves in various dishes daily. It is reported to fight or ward off infections and influenza.
Cilantro – Cilantro is one of those flavors that people either love or hate. We personally love it, especially in fresh salsas. Cilantro has been shown to have antibacterial properties and to aid in the chelating of heavy metals.
Echinacea – Known as an overall immune stimulant, echinacea has many other possible health benefits such as fighting urinary tract infections, cancer, inflammation, and respiratory issues among others.
Elderberry – Elderberry is well known for helping a number of ailments, but is particularly useful as an antiviral if used early on for treatment. However, there are so many other possible benefits that you may want to research it more and add it to your health arsenal.
Garlic – Garlic is good for such a wide variety of ailments that you may as well just eat it. It seems to have antifungal properties and is good in the battle against parasites. It helps the heart, reduces inflammation, encourages detoxification, and can help fight infection. There is so much good about garlic that we encourage you to look into and grow this very beneficial medicine. It is also one of the easiest thing to grow!
Mullein – Mullein is great for viruses and while we’ve thankfully never had to battle them, I’ve heard great things about garlic and mullein in combination for ear infections. It’s also very useful for bronchial and lung problems and can be used as a tea, in combination with other decongestant herbs such as horehound.
Oregano, particularly Wild Oregano – The “pizza herb” is well known as an anti-viral and anti-fungal. We use oregano oil to aid in the regular boosting of our immune systems. It can also be used to treat fungal infections, internally or externally. Oregano has also been found to soothe bee stings or snake bites.
Parsley – We have all seen the curly variety of parsley used as garnish, but at one time that garnish served a purpose. Parsley is known to ward of bad breath when chewed after a meal. It also contains apiol and myristicin, which give parsley its diuretic, and therefore cleansing, properties. Parsley is also very high in chlorophyll.
Rosemary – This woody herb has a long history of relieving many ailments including stomach upsets, digestive disorders and headaches. It is also thought to aid memory and other brain functions. Not only that, but its essential oils have long been used for skin and hair care.
Thyme – What would chicken soup be without this delicious herb. But I have personally seen the medicinal benefits of this herb. Thyme makes an effective tea for coughs, congestion, and colds. When diligently served regular cups of thyme tea, we have seen improvements in cough within hours.
Sage – This herb that we all know as the perfect accompaniment to turkey was used for anything and everything in times past. It was best known to prevent colds, aid rheumatism, and is especially effective against indigestion. Sage tea is still widely consumed in China and other cultures, especially after meals.
Spanish Black Radish – Can help your body fight off bacterial infections. It is easy to grow and harvest as a winter radish.
Use Supplements and Essential Oils, Not Drugs
Almost everyone seems to have health issues of one sort or another today. If you’re not able to grow your own medicine yet, and you’re looking at alternatives then supplements and therapeutic grade essential oils are a much better answer than drugs.
Of course, like most things, there are good supplements and bad supplements. If you want to take a supplement you know will be high quality, seek out plant and food-based supplements. For essential oils make sure you use therapeutic grade for any internal use. We’ve been pleased to use essential oils from a variety of companies, but particularly like the practices and products of Mountain Rose Herbs.
Treating Specific Health Issues
Below are some things you can do for some specific health issues. These are general things we’ve found to be helpful or learned from health practitioners over the years. As always, please consult a health practitioner before starting any treatment (if you can).
Low Stomach Acid – Most people today probably have low stomach acid. A lot of people who are told they have too much stomach acid and take things like Tums are actually in need of more stomach acid and NOT less. If there is not enough acid in the stomach the stomach does not trigger itself to stay closed properly and you end up with things like acid reflux. Without enough stomach acid you end up with undigested proteins in your body that are not supposed to be there… which is the start of food allergies. So what do you do? You need to boost your stomach acid. This can be done artificially for a time by taking things like HCL with Pepsin supplements. You can also drink apple cider vinegar (get the organic kind with the mother in it) in water. You need to make sure you have enough zinc in your body to be able to produce stomach acid.
Gut Health – Having proper gut health is critical to overall health. Natural probiotics (good bacteria) can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables. Bone broth, gelatin and grass-fed meats are also beneficial to keeping your gut in a healthy condition. If you have a compromised gut taking or eating enzymes can help clear out the damage already in the body from a “leaky gut”. There are specific enzymes for helping you digest food and also enzymes (metabolic or systemic) you can take between meals (like serrapeptase) to help throughout the body.
Heavy Metal Detox – Due to environmental toxins the food and air today are often contaminated with metals. Many of these find their way into our bodies and can wreak havoc on the nervous system and gut. First of all, avoid any direct methods of receiving a dose of metals directly into your body, such as vaccines, which may still contain aluminum or mercury. To help prevent metals from building up in your body you need to focus on liver/kidney health and staying full of good minerals so there is no place for the bad metals to sit. For example, if your body is saturated with plenty of iodine it is much less likely to absorb flouride, etc. To help flush metals from your system you can use supplements and foods like cilantro, garlic, chlorella, and Selenomethionine (a specific form of selenium, which we have found quite helpful).
Chemical Detox – Chemicals likewise are pervasive today. Sadly, they are in the food, air, water, and even the umbilical cord of babies. This can include pesticide residue, preservatives, food additives, drugs that don’t break down, plastics, and much more. Eating lots of leafy greens or taking a greens powder supplement can help flush these out of your body. Likewise, supplements like activated charcoal and bentonite clay may help.
Virus (Cold, Flu, Other) – There are some simple antivirals that we’ve found have helped considerably over the years. Some of these are wild oregano oil, olive leaf extract, elderberry syrup, vitamin d, cloves oil, eucalyptus oil, and rosemary oil. One thing that has particularly helped Stewart over the years is something we learned from Dr. Tent (from Diverse Health Services) about how specific foods can trigger viral episodes. It has to do with foods that are rich in arginine, which in some people can cause an imbalance if they don’t have enough lysine to counter it. An arginine environment is apparently conducive to viruses. For those sensitive to viruses avoiding these foods or taking a lysine supplement (or eating foods rich in lysine) can help prevent flare-ups. Arginine rich foods include: Almonds, Brown Rice, Sunflower Seeds, Chocolate, Whole Wheat Bread, Peanuts & Peanut Butter, Pecans , Oatmeal, Soybeans, Corn, Millet, Onions, Brussel Sprouts, Sesame Seeds Split Peas, Walnuts, Wheat Germ, Caffeine.
Bacteria – Colloidal silver is a good alternative to traditional antibiotics. Not all “colloidal silver” products are the same though. We’ve had good success with Mesosilver and Angstrom Minerals Silver. Spanish black radish also works well for bacterial issues. You can get this as a supplement or just grow your own.
Fungus – For a long time we had no idea that people could even have (internal) fungal issues. Now we treat this with garlic, wild oregano oil, and tea tree oil (external application).
Parasites – Parasites are far more common than most people think. Garlic is a great home-grown treatment. We’ve also had some good success with a “Fresh Green Black Walnut Wormwood Complex”. This supplement contains fresh (green) black walnut hulls, wormwood, and clove buds.
Specific Organ Support – If you have a specific organ ailment taking organ supplements or eating that organ from animals can help. For example, eating liver (cow, chicken, etc.) is very good for your own liver because it contains nutrients and complete building blocks that your body can easily use. If you don’t want to eat the liver there are supplements available you can take in pill form to achieve a very similar result. These types of supplements are available for almost every organ in the body.
Cancer – Cancer is such a large topic that there is no way we can cover much here other than to provide encouragement and point out some resources. Many people have used alternative therapies such as essential oils, cancer starving diets, nutritious food, and much more to combat cancer without using known toxins such as chemotherapy, etc. We highly recommend the information on preventing and treating cancer available on The Truth About Cancer website.
Daily Maintenance Protocols
Salt Water Sole – This is something well worth looking into and has helped us make it through hot summer weather. It helps you hydrate and adds beneficial trace minerals to your body. To make it you saturate water with a natural unrefined sea salt. To do this take a quart jar and fill it maybe 1/3 full of sea salt. Then you fill it with water most of the way, cover it, and shake it up. Let it sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours it should still have undissolved salt in the bottom. This is your key to know that the water is fully saturated. Next add a couple spoonfuls of the salty solution to a glass of water. Taste it and see if it tastes like saltwater. If it does it is time to drink. If it isn’t salty enough add some more. If it is too salty then dilute it a bit. Do this every morning and see if you don’t notice an improvement in your health!
Iodine supplementation – Many people are iodine deficient and don’t know it. Dr. Brownstein has a tremendous amount of work testing people for iodine deficiency and treating it. “More than 96 percent of over 5,000 patients tested were iodine deficient, in a clinical study conducted by thyroid expert Dr. David Brownstein.”
Magnesium supplementation – Since magnesium deficiency is common today and supplementing to treat it is so inexpensive it is worth looking into. Dr. Mercola says, “If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame”.
Oil Pulling – A method for improving oral health where you swish a teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes and then spit it out. This procedure is repeated frequently and can greatly improve various dental conditions.
Bentonite Clay – Taken daily or even less often, this will help support general detox pathways without putting too much pressure on organs or digestion.
With all of that said, if you do one thing and one thing only, just eat real, homemade food. Grow as much of it as you can. Eat it raw, eat it cooked. Eat greens every day. Eat raw eggs and drink raw milk every day. Make broth from your chickens, salads from your garden, yogurt from your goats. Ferment it, blend it, can it, and yes, eat it. You have to take responsibility for your health yourself and in order to do that, you have to feed you and your family with food you know you can trust.
We believe that nothing happens by accident and that the whole of creation is governed by God. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that the Lord Himself gives and takes away in all things, including health. Don’t let homesteading or physical health distract you from the most important things in life. We’ve definitely made the mistake of having the wrong priorities at times, especially related to our homestead. Jesus Christ said, “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Some spiritual food for thought.