Chickens, Dirt and Butter: few of my favorite things

Chickens are my favorite thing to watch.

So, we live in the city and recently managed to fulfill a lifelong dream of having backyard chickens.  A few weeks back we welcomed 8 new members to the family – Big foot, Squishy, Nugget, Annabeth, Salty, Betty, Huevos, and Ruffles.

While we’re looking forward to getting our own fresh eggs some day soon, having chickens as pets is an absolute joy for my family.  The kids are having a blast and I love the time I spend just watching it all unfold.

While I’m ecstatic about our growing family, I really want to share what happened the first day they arrived.  It seems lessons we need to learn come from the strangest places, sometimes.

At our house we have 2 dogs, 2 very sweet but very big dogs – a German Shepherd and a Chow.  Obviously, welcoming the chickens meant introducing the dogs to their new sisters.  Who’s idea was this, again?  Well the first day, we came pretty close to losing at least one of our chickens when our mild-mannered and gentle Chow quietly snuck into the coop to get a little taste of our new guests.  After a tense and chaotic moment of lunging and clucking and flapping, we grabbed him and led him out.  While we had adrenaline coursing through our veins, knees shaking and convinced we must have just lost a few of them, we found the chickens were fine… and that they had already come out from under the coop, unscathed and were happily scratching and pecking again.

For me it was how these chickens handled it that was so remarkable.  I watched as they went from complete calm through complete havoc with a predator in their territory in a near death experience to happily pecking and pruning within 10 seconds as if nothing had happened.

I’ve always suspected chickens aren’t the most intelligent animals on the planet, but it would be unfair to not share my complete awe of them in that moment.  It was their inherent skill for survival followed by achieving BASELINE, instantaneously.  We talk about Baseline a lot in my office because so many of us never really reach it and our health and quality of life are suffering.  Baseline is a place of balance and calm, clear mind and focus that allows us to be in the moment; nothing else exists or matters.  It’s “living in the moment”… some might liken it to being “in the zone” or “in the flow”.

We talk about Baseline when we talk about stress and cortisol and their impact on our moods, sleep, sex drive and weight loss.  We’re so inundated by stress that we’ve lost the ability to comprehend it.  I believe our distant ancestors were better at living Baseline because they weren’t tempted by all of the distractions we’re faced with daily.  We’re inundated with external stressors like cell phones, meetings, bills, traffic, the news and so on that we rarely find a true baseline experience in a day. perhaps even a month.  We live in a constant state of at least moderate stress and cortisol release that baseline can even seem uncomfortable… with so much to do and worry about, how can we relax?.

Regardless or our challenges, I feel Baseline is one of the essential components in finding health and happiness.  Personally, I think I struggle to find Baseline enough and watching the chickens was a real life example to me of what it really looks like to return to baseline.

So now I’m turning off the screens. Chickens are my new favorite thing to watch.

Butter is a long-time favorite.

Of recent, butter has been making a comeback in the world of nutrition.  Good butter’s not on the Bad Fat list anymore, and in fact, it can be a health food.  I think many of us have been comfortable that since our bodies are largely composed of water we should drink a lot of water, but somehow that was lost on fats as we’ve tried to avoid it at all costs.  Healthy fats are necessary for a healthy body.  So, I’ve been a proponent for good clean butter for some time.  Many of my talks somehow include a boisterous message that we are helping to Bring Butter Back!  Thankfully, “I can’t believe they make this stuff” spreads with their strange taste and stranger ingredients are out.

For clarity, not all butter is created equal.  Healthy butter comes from happy cows who graze on grass (not a concoction of grains and medications they were never meant to eat) and the cream is not super-heated, destroying precious enzymes and nutrients.  When butter is made from grass-fed cows, low-heat pasteurized cream (or even raw) and free of unnecessary chemicals, it contains a better nutrient profile and notably higher amounts of a fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).  CLA is good for weight loss, cancer prevention and heart disease prevention.  Crazy right… these are the conditions industry tried to convince us that butter causes.  Well at least for good butter this seems far from accurate.

We’re so passionate about good butter (for health and taste reasons), that we now get it delivered to our office from a local farm called Happy Cow Creamery.  (We have some here at the downtown office if anyone would like to grab the best butter EVER!)  One of my favorite patients (you know who you are) sent me an email the other day saying his wife was quite surprised when he came back from our appointment with a pound of butter in his bag.  Nutrition times have certainly changed for the better.

My Dad’s girlfriend cannot figure out why Happy Cow Creamery butter contains the same ingredients (cream and salt) as her cheap store bought butter, but the taste is so dramatically different.  The take-home for all of us is “How food is grown, raised and processed makes all the difference in taste, in health and nutrition.”  This organic, grass-fed, low-heat pasteurized butter is the perfect example.  (I wonder if a butter tasting event would be fun.)

[Additional Reading:  Why Butter is Better by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig]

Lastly… I love dirt.

I guess no blog about chickens and butter can be complete without mentioning dirt.

I love dirty kids and we have real dirty kids these days, planting veggies and chasing chickens.  As humans, I think we’re meant to get our hands dirty.  We are meant to eat dirt and rub dirt on our skins… for some of you, I realize this sounds awful.

One of the primary ways our immune system matures is through exposure to microbes and dirt is a rich source.  Our gut, where 80% of our immune system resides, needs exposure to a broad array of microbes to develop and function optimally.  Reflect with me for a moment because so many of our habits today are contrary to this thinking.  In contrast to our distant ancestors, many of us never even touch dirt let alone get dirty.  Loosely, the Hygiene Hypothesis* argues that our daily showers, anti-microbial soaps, bleach use and general cleanliness leaves our immune system underdeveloped and over-reactive.  It proposes insights into why we have seen a dramatic increase in skin issues like eczema, asthma, inhaled and food allergies, and digestive issues in recent years.

I guess I’m not telling you to sprinkle dirt in your food or stop showering, but I am suggesting that you not be afraid of getting dirty.  Ditch the anti-microbial sprays and soaps, get outside, let your kids get dirty and eat fresh whole foods.  Since eating dirt is not going to be on the top of my grocery list, we have started to use a new type of probiotic (well new for us) in the practice called Prescript-Assist.  This is great probiotic formula made from the soil.  It contains many more strains than the typical probiotics available and it does not have to be kept cold, which is pretty convenient.  I think we can all benefit from taking these soil-based organisms, particularly if you have issues with constipation, immune-related conditions or if more standard, lactic acid producing probiotics have not worked for you in the past.

[A great book on the topic of Hygiene Hypothesis is called An Epidemic of Absence: A New way of understanding allergies and autoimmune disease.]

So please, have a great day and join me in a more chicken-like approach to life, eating more dirt and enjoying REAL butter.

Posted in: Uncategorized