Thursday, December 30, 2010

ReCAP of 2010: Dr. Sara Puts It Out There

Ok, friends: It's D-2 for the start of my organic experiment. As I look back on the crazy-assed testing I've done to measure my toxic load this month, and look to Saturday 1.1.11 as the start of my experiment, I'm systematizing some of the delicious gems I've uncovered in the past year of prep. Here it is for your viewing pleasure and let me know what I've forgotten! 

Best Designer I Recently Learned About: Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin. Watch her cool 3-min video right here. 

Best Slang:  "chillaxin'" (Learned from my 11-year-old; I'm doing that right now, my friends).

Best Organic Wear: Stewart and Brown. OMG, thank you SR for the introduction. I'm ready to move into the studio in Ventura and become the team doctor.

Best New Botanical (new to my obsessive self-experimentation): Kanchanar Guggulu, an Ayurvedic herb for the thyroid and metabolism.

Best Organic Skin Care Line: Two-way tie between organic, sometimes biodynamic Eminence and Tarte.

Best Concept: CSK (Community Sponsored Knitting) vs. Urban Homesteading vs. ONE YEAR :: ALL ORGANIC (a little shameless self-promotion and a three-way tie) 

Best Skiing with the Kids: NorthStar. BTW, how the hell am I going to snowboard organically? I will freeze without technical gear. Wool? Comment me through this, please. 

Best Rejuvenation Station: West Marin. Greetings from Pt Reyes Mesa, sun at my back, kale at my side. 

Best Burger: Wood Tavern. 

Best Book: Oh, Dear. Read so many good ones. Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin? Actually increased my happiness quotient, I'm delighted to say. Email her for her Resolutions Chart. Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss? More on that in my next eblast. This one is a game-changer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keepin' It Real: Bolinas for Holiday

Signing off for a week of reading, doodling, strolling, yoga, meditating, cooking, writing, and, oh yeah, hanging out with my kids and DH.

Guess where I am?

Thinking I need more honor system in my life, like this Gospel Farm stand. Let's develop that idea....

Back in a week or two. Officially off duty as a doctor. Back to that January 3, 2011 on the organic channel. Push the button.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Organically Jeaned: Change Up the Paradigm

Learned today that the European Union has rigid boundaries on the type of cotton they import - no toxic dyes, no cheap cotton laced with DDT, as several cottons from China and India were recently demonstrated to contain. The EU regularly tests their imported textiles carefully; we in the US do not.

One of the worst players? Your jeans.

They're full of pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides and defoliants. In California alone, over 7 million pounds of chemicals are used annually for cotton. Each pair of conventional jeans requires 13 oz of pesticides and fertilizers. That is very chemically intensive. Eek.

Here in the US, women on average have 8 pair in their closet.

There is one place in China, named Xingtang, Guangzhou, that produces 200 million pairs of jeans per year, and supplies 67% of the world appetite. Check out the pretty water coming out of the factory of this town and emptying into the "Pearl" River.

A Chief Medical Officer in Guangzhou said this water contains heavy metals that are "neurotoxic, carcinogenic, they disrupt the endocrine system," according to Dr. Tony Lu and as reported by CNN.
"They cause cancer of different organs." Dr. Tony Lu

So what about organic cotton jeans? What about jeans dyed in natural indigo?

Like any Berkeley girl, my first stop was Jeremy's on College Avenue for three reasons:
  1. I love their prices particularly on samples and salvage;
  2. An addendum to #1: my husband is getting very suspicious of my spending on "research" for my year of living organically;
  3. It's only 0.5 miles from my house - very low carbon footprint on my end at least.
First up: Two entire racks of Edun organic clothing, brought to you courtesy of U2's Bono and his wife, Ali. They happen to have made the cut with Rogan Gregory for Top Ten best sustainable designer. All the cotton is from Africa which isn't great for the carbon footprint part of my experiment but that continues to be a work in progress. Sometimes we get two legs of the triple bottom line and this company definitely supports social justice. Their third party auditing is detailed right here.

Best part is my new 100% organic jeans cost $20. Here they are in full glory.

Here's what Tree Hugger has to say about Rogan:

Rogan Gregory has a good thing going. As the designer behind both Loomstate and Edun, he's mixing hip apparel with organic cotton, fair labor and celebrity to make a tremondous mark on fashion. Loomstate helped set the bar for sustainably-minded designer denim by using only 100% organic cotton and sustainable farming practices. With Edun, along with U2's Bono and Bono's wife, Ali Hewson, Rogan brings the notion of sustainable employment to catwalks across the world and widens the apparel designs from simply denim to everyday casualwear. With both efforts, Rogan Gregory is helping to change the paradigm in the fashion industry and make it possible for "hip," "sustainable" and "fashion" to happily co-exist. 

For my organic experiment, I got 3 pair of organic jeans because I've decided they are my new wardrobe staple. For my patients, warning: prepare to see me in jeans at work starting Jan 1, 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mental Vitamin: Sewing | Knitting | Cooking

Love this idea from neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, PhD's book on depression, about choosing alternatives to the conventional quick-fix of changing your neurotransmitter mix with a prescription for Lexapro, Prozac or Wellbutryn or some new pill.

“Lambert shows how when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin. Our grandparents and great grandparents, who had to work hard for basic resources, developed more resilience against depression; even those who suffered great hardships had much lower rates of this mood disorder. But with today’s overly-mechanized lifestyle we have forgotten that our brains crave the well-being that comes from meaningful effort.”

Gratitude for this info to a beloved patient, Fleur, who found it from a cool woman's sewing blog, who credits a woman named Catherine Newman. I believe it is Catherine who wrote the paragraph above but it's a little hard to identify from my sequence of lovely informants. Here's Kelly's website and a tantalizing excerpt.

I'll end with a few words from Kelly that I happen to agree with completely.

Thanks to the relentless beat of drug marketing, many of us are confident that depression has been figured out. We “know” that the cause is a chemical imbalance and that the most effective treatment is antidepressants. Since the introduction of SSRIs, which increase the levels of serotonin between brain cells, most scientific research has focused on how these drugs, and others like them, influence depression. In fact, the depression “story” has been dominated by the role of serotonin and the theory that low levels of this neurochemical affect our moods in negative ways.

But I haven’t been able to buy into it. If these drugs are such an effective treatment for depression, why, despite millions of patients in the United States receiving prescriptions for SSRIs each year, are depression rates higher than ever? The World Health Organization estimates that depressive and anxiety disorders lead the list of mental illnesses across the globe—with 121 million people currently suffering from these conditions. They’re responsible for approximately one quarter of all visits to health care centers worldwide. In the United States, where SSRIs, are readily available (about 189 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants for approximately 15 million Americans in 2005 alone!), the Washington Post recently reported that the percentage of adults using SSRIs between 1994 and 2002 had tripled. But despite the astounding number of people on these medications, depression rates continue to rise.

Time to knit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Organic Right Up Next to Your Skin: Undies

Perhaps the most important layer in my organic experiment is my undies. Right up next to your privateness, you want no endocrine disruptors or heavy metals. Surprisingly, I found this to be one of the harder items to procure before January 1, 2011 when my experiment begins.

Here in Berkeley, there's a foxy brand called Pact. Check it out. Problem is: I don't know if their printing process is toxic or their dyes. I'm thinking they look rather toxic, but prove me wrong. Pact's undies come in bikini and boy short styles too, and all are 95% organic cotton with 5% elastane. Do I need the elastane? Do you? Will my thongs buckle and stretch out otherwise? Will it destroy my thyroid? I need to research more. But, damn, Pact undies a're foxy, both the boy short above in red, and the polka thong down below.

On Facebook, I got a great tip to check out Good & Fair out of Austin. Here's their website and  blog. But the options are extremely limited. People: where are the thongs?

Another social media friend suggested rawganique, and at first I was thinking: really?

But then I found some goodies, with much more deep awareness of what it is I'm trying to do - no elastic, no lycra, no latex. 

What am I trying to do again? Oh yeah... prove the case for wearing organic!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Was getting a little veggie henna applied to my lashes today on Fourth Street in Berkeley when I stumbled upon a new eco boutique in the 'hood: CONVERT.


Waltzed in and explained my organic experiment: one year - 100% organic in what I wear and schmear. No blank stare. Instead: efficient march through store, all arms loaded full with organic clothing delicacies.

They got it. Fast.

Fab design too. Not the organic crap that's offered at Patagonia (looks like your cousin in rural Idaho might like it), or Patagucci as I like to call it.

Becca, assistant manager, shown below, got me hooked up.  She-Bible or Curator (they're changing their name, I guess) of San Francisco, Prairie Underground from Seattle, Convert brand t-shirts (organic cotton, fabricated in Los Angeles), Tightology (organic tights).

Needed something warm to layer in my sometimes-chilly medical office. Here you are: Plath Cardigan.

Bought this little number for the next time I meet Tony Blair. The Bancroft dress by Curator. Still researching whether it's actually as organic as the staff led me to believe. Help - disavow me of my skepticism!

Casual organic: easy to source. Dressy organic: not so easy. Raincoats too: not so easy. Hook me up.

Liked this too but ran out of money: Pop Doyle Tee.

Here's Becca, Assistant Manager. She's so fly. Love her. Super bright. Loved Randy too - owner. Opened the place one year ago. Big party tomorrow night at the store - in the old Hear Music storefront.

In between lashes and organic cotton spree, I popped my head in Molly B's. I've shopped there for decades. Asked about organic clothes, cotton, wool, anything? Blank stare.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sacred Socks & Pablo Neruda

Maybe you didn't quite get just how obsessed I am with knitting. Here's an example: I could not properly express the joy I feel with my new socks, knitted from delicious "soft girl" yarn from local Petaluma sheep, until I came across Pablo Neruda's Ode to Socks, excerpted way below in English and Spanish. Thank you, Mom, for sending me the link to Pablo's poem.

Welcome to my new socks for my 2011 Organic Challenge!

wear organic | schmear organic | eat organic

Are these socks crazy good? Have I lost my mind? The yarn is from local Petaluma sheep owned by the wise and wonderful Mimi Luebbermann of Windrush Farms. 

Pablo understands....


(Translated by Robert Bly)

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder's hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as though into two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin.

Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.

They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.
Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp tempation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.

Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.
The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty,
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.
Now, in Espanol....


por Pablo Neruda

Me trajo Mara Mori
un par de calcetines
que tejió con sus manos de pastora,
dos calcetines suaves como liebres.
En ellos metí los pies
como en dos estuches
tejidos con hebras del
crepúsculo y pellejos de ovejas.

Violentos calcetines,
mis pies fueron dos pescados de lana,
dos largos tiburones
de azul ultramarino
atravesados por una trenza de oro,
dos gigantescos mirlos,
dos cañones:
mis pies fueron honrados de este modo
por estos celestiales calcetines.

Eran tan hermosos que por primera vez
mis pies parecieron inaceptables,
como dos decrépitos bomberos,
bomberos indignos de aquel fuego bordado,
de aquellos luminosos calcetines.

Sin embargo, resistí la tentación
aguda de guardarlos como los colegiales preservan sus luciérnagas,
como los eruditos coleccionan
documentos sagrados,
resistí el impulso furioso de ponerlos
en una jaula de oro y darles cada
dia alpiste y pulpa de melón rosado.

Como descubridores que en la selva
entregan el rarísimo venado verde
al asador y se lo comen con remordimiento,
estiré los pies y me enfundé
los bellos calcetines y luego los zapatos.

Y es esta la moral de mi Oda:
Dos veces es belleza la belleza,
y lo que es bueno es doblemente bueno,
cuando se trata de dos calcetines
de lana en el invierno.

Nuevas odas elementales, 1956 

With deepest thanks to Rebecca Burgess for inspiring this work with her friendship and her brilliant project, Fibershed!

Knitting as Mantra

I cannot get enough knitting time. It's my favorite meditation and I love the product. It's therapeutically and aesthetically rocking my world right now.

Why? I think Herb Benson, MD, a mentor of mine from the Harvard Mind-Body Institute articulated it best.

"Working with yarn provides stress relief. Like meditation or prayer, knitting allows for the passive release of stray thoughts. The rhythmic and repetitive quality of the stitching, along with the needles clicking resembles a calming mantra. The mind can wander while still focusing on one task." 

Those of you who knit know the pleasures and meditative aspect of which I write. If you're looking to learn to knit or advance your training, here's a glorious story of a local young woman, Allison Reilly, who taught herself online (!) and is a knitting prodigy. Awesometown.

There is something interesting happening in the brain when you knit, a knitting together, if you will, of right and left brain. For those of us just too damn cool for Sudoku, this is your game to slow down the aging process! For more data on slowing down aging - check out Dean Ornish's blog on HuffPo where he describes the incredible news that meditation lengthens telomeres and slows down biological aging. Even Sudoku has not been shown to do that (or any prescription drug, for that matter!).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thyroid Questionnaire

I love this questionnaire from Dr. Hotze, another integrative physician. It gets to the heart of whether you should be tested for thyroid dysregulation, even if your conventional doc has dismissed your concerns. I also like to use these questions to build a tracker for how you improve with different therapies, as trial-and-error continues to be the best route for choosing the best thyroid optimization.

If the question addresses a concern that applies to you, record the number. When done, total the numbers.

1. Do you experience fatigue (4)?
2. Is your cholesterol elevated (4)?
3. Do you have difficulty losing weight (2)?
4. Do you have cold hands and feet (2)?
5. Are you sensitive to cold (2)?
6. Do you have difficulty thinking (2)?
7. Do you find it hard to concentrate (2)?
8. Do you have poor short-term memory (2)?
9. Are your moods depressed (2)?
10. Are you experiencing hair loss (2)?
11. Do you have fewer that one BM per day (2)?
12. Do you have dry skin (2)?
13. Do you have itchy skin in winter (1)?
14. Do you have fluid retention (2)?
15. Do you have recurrent headaches (1)?
16. Do you sleep restlessly (1)?
17. Do you experience afternoon fatigue (2)?
18. Are you tired when you awaken (2)?
19. Do you experience tingling in hands or feet (2)?
20. Have you had infertility or miscarriages (2)?
21. Do you have decreased sweating (2)?
22. Do you have muscle aches (2)?
23. Have you had recurrent infections (2)?
24. Do you have joint pain (2)?
25. Do you have thinning of your eyebrows or eyelashes (2)?

Score < 11? You are unlikely to have a thyroid problem.
Score 11-30? Low thyroid function is a possibility.
Score >30? Low thyroid function is probable.
Get tested if your score is > 11, including a free T3 and TSH. 

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I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.