As January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’d like to take this opportunity to talk about Project Mona’s House, run by founder Kelly Diane Galloway.
Human trafficking is essentially modern-day slavery and affects many more people (and people closer to home) than we may realize. There are several forms of human trafficking, such as sex trafficking and labor trafficking, that are very difficult to escape from; those who are victimized by trafficking can be affected by the trauma of the experience in deep and lasting ways. Thankfully, Mona's House is an organization working to empower and advocate for victims of trafficking.
According to the Project Mona’s House website,
Mona's House is designed to help women 18 and older who have been victims of any type of human trafficking. WE ARE MORE THAN A SHELTER! Women entering our residence are committed to becoming contributing and functioning members of society, rebuilding their lives, and possibly assisting other women who may choose freedom one day too. Our 12-24 month program is designed to bring healing to the whole woman-- mind, body, and soul. We've specifically designed our holistic restoration program for women who have been victimized by human trafficking.
Mona’s House also offers other programs like Mona’s Group:
Mona’s Group is a support system that is designed specifically for women who have been victims of human trafficking, have worked in most capacities within the sex industry, or have been a victim of sexual abuse or assault.
Our goal is to provide a safe place for women to learn, heal, and grow. Our curriculum is designed to guide women to be the overcomers they were destined to be. Mona’s Group provides a holistic form of coaching that is coupled with life skills classes, workshops, and seminars to help its participants live successful lives and maximize their full potential. In addition to regular coaching sessions we offer:
Mona’s House also includes a drop-in center called the FreeTHEM Center, to “aid human trafficking survivors as well as at-risk women and children in developing life skills and in receiving services in counseling and support.”
And, of course, Mona’s House puts a great deal of time and energy into raising awareness about human trafficking in Buffalo, NY, and the rest of the United States. Be sure to follow them at @projectmonashouse on Instagram for a ton of useful and in-depth information about types of trafficking, groups of people who are most affected by trafficking, issues of consent, and ways to advocate for ending trafficking and supporting victims.
We are donating a percentage of sales for January to cover the cost of an intake care package, and we hope that you will also go to their website to donate!
Black-eyed peas are a well known food of the African diaspora, making their way to the United States and becoming a staple of soul food and southern foodways in general. In the United States, they are often eaten with rice for New Year’s Day and are the perfect recipe to feature for our first January 2022 newsletter!
Unfortunately, African American and southern foods are often (and quite wrongly) deemed unhealthy by the wellness community. The truth is that many of these dishes are full of vegetables and legumes and very nutrient dense! Black-eyed peas, rice, and collard greens are all particularly high in magnesium and are a great, nourishing way to start the New Year or eat anytime you want a satisfying boost of minerals during a cold and snowy Buffalo winter!
Rather than printing a recipe here, we’re going to direct you to the Shondaland website for their interview with culinary journalist Toni Tipton-Martin and her recipe for Black-eyed peas and rice as well as Gumbo Z’herbes with collard greens. We would also highly recommend checking out her book Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking for a wealth of recipes and historical information.
Here is her brief history of Watch Night and the significance of these foods:
Watch Night Service is a gathering of the faithful to bring in the New Year with spirituals, prayers, and testimony. The celebration began on “Freedom’s Eve,” December 31, 1862, when enslaved people gathered in churches to await the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had set them free. With the news came shouts of jubilation and gratitude. Today, the service includes reflection, praise, and worship to God for His provision and protection.
Folklore in the “Penn School & Sea Islands Heritage Cookbook” described the Carolina Lowcountry this way: “Early on New Year’s Eve, the pots begin to cook, as the meal for New Year’s day must be done by Midnight. The menu for New Year’s Day is a simple one: Hoppin’ John, collard greens with hog jowls, and ribs for a side dish. Hoppin’ John, or brown field peas cooked with rice, is eaten for good luck throughout the year. The collard greens represent dollar bills. It is said the more one eats, the more luck and money one will have.”
This adaptation of Hoppin’ John appeared in “Aunt Julia’s Cook Book,” a collection of Atlantic Coast recipes published in the 1930s by the Standard Oil Company.
May these delicious foods help you to start 2022 in a healthy and delicious way!
January often brings the surfacing of complex emotions. Some may love the fresh start after the holidays, the return of routines, and the promise of the coming year. Others may feel a bit bummed out that the holidays are over and go through a period of the “Winter Blues” as they get back into regular routines.
Either way, though, the prospect of enduring the rest of the long cold winter, especially here in the Buffalo snow belt, has very real effects for a lot of people and can sometimes result in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a specific type of clinical depression.
According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, as cited in the article “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (2018), SAD tends to show up as depression, increased appetite and cravings for carbohydrates, the need to sleep more, decreased activity, and social withdrawal.
But did you know that magnesium deficiency may have a part to play in people developing SAD? This has to do with magnesium’s connection to the melatonin cycle, inflammation, neurotransmitters, and vitamin D.
MELATONIN: Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. It regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking. When the sun sets earlier, the body naturally wants to fall asleep earlier as melatonin is giving those signals. And while we do want melatonin levels to rise in the evening to help us fall asleep, we don’t want them to rise TOO early and make us sluggish before we actually want to go to bed. Magnesium helps to naturally regulate the melatonin cycle.
INFLAMMATION: On top of the melatonin cycle being out of sync, many people who experience SAD also have higher levels of inflammation (“Seasonal Affective Disorder,” 2018). Like the melatonin cycle, inflammation is a necessary process for the body... in the right situations. Inflammatory cytokines are necessary in the body to fight infection and promote healing. However, also like the melatonin cycle, the inflammatory process is the most beneficial when it is well regulated and not over- or under-functioning. Magnesium helps to regulate the immune system so it functions properly.
NEUROTRANSMITTERS: People with SAD often have lower levels of some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin.
VITAMIN D*: The decreased level of neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, may be a result of lower levels of vitamin D, a hormone that works to regulate calcium in the blood (“Seasonal Affective Disorder,” 2018). Vitamin D is naturally produced when the body is exposed to sunlight, and magnesium is essential for the body to be able to convert vitamin D to its active form, making it more available for the body to absorb and use.
What may be able to help support all of these systems and ease the symptoms of SAD? There is not a single solution, but rather a combination of approaches that work well together!
* NOTE: Very interestingly, recent research suggests a near-zero death rate from COVID-19 among people with vitamin D levels over 50. (Under 20 is generally considered deficient, and under 30 is generally considered insufficient.) The article “COVID-19 Mortality Risk Correlates Inversely with Vitamin D3 Status“ (Borsche, L., Glauner, B., & von Mendel, J., 2021) claims that “The datasets provide strong evidence that low D3 is a predictor rather than just a side effect of the infection. Despite ongoing vaccinations, we recommend raising serum 25(OH)D levels to above 50 ng/mL to prevent or mitigate new outbreaks due to escape mutations or decreasing antibody activity.” In other words, along with being vaccinated and masking, talking to your doctor about supplementing with vitamin D might be a great way to keep yourself healthy (or make viral infection less severe) during the current COVID surge!
Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog post is to share information about our products as well as research-based information on magnesium that we have found useful. We are NOT medical professionals and do not intend this newsletter to be taken as medical advice. Our products are not FDA approved or approved for medical use, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please be sure to consult a medical professional with any questions about utilizing our products along with your current health regimen!
As November is Native American Heritage Month, we will be donating to support the Haudenosaunee Indigenous Values Initiative to raise awareness about Indigenous history and the ongoing struggle of Indigenous people. We acknowledge that we as a business and as individuals are on Haudenosaunee land here in Western New York and recognize the need for us to learn about, and redistribute wealth to, the Indigenous communities that have experienced land theft and genocide.
The Haudenosaunee Indigenous Values Initiative website offers this information about their organization and mission:
NYA•WEÑHA SKÄ•NOÑH: Thank you for being well
The Indigenous Values Initiative is dedicated to articulating, disseminating and promoting values expressed by the leadership of the Onondaga Nation, the Central Fire (or Capital) of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (made up of the Seneca, Tuscarora, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations). Haudenosaunee means “People of the Longhouse,” and are most often mistakenly referred to as the “Iroquois”). The Onondaga Nation is unique to the world, in that they are the only Native Nation recognized by the United States, and the United Nations, that still operates according to their pre-colonial clan form of government. The Haudenosaunee organize themselves in a matrilineal clan system of extended families. Their ceremonies are aligned to phases of the moon, and are based on thanksgivings to the natural world. As we all face climatic changes, it is urgent that human beings reorient themselves to the rhythms of the earth. Indigenous value systems need to be heeded in these troubled times. Intercultural understanding, however, must be based on healing generations from colonization, missionization, genocide and assimilation. The Haudenosaunee understand the need for collaboration with individuals, institutions, communities, governments and businesses to articulate, disseminate and promote the ancient and enduring values of Indigenous Peoples traditions to the world. The Indigenous Values Initiative (IVI) raises funds to support educational projects which will disperse information through conferences, classes, exhibitions, publications, speakers, expositions, etc. (https://indigenousvalues.org/about/)
As November is Native American Heritage Month and we are located on Haudenosaunee land, we will be donating to the Indigenous Values Initiative to support this organization's crucial work in advocacy and education.
We also encourage you to read about the Landback Movement which states that "To truly dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression, we have to go back to the roots. Which, for us, is putting Indigneous Lands back in Indigenous hands." (https://landback.org/)
Local Business Love: Cuppa Culture TEApourium, Nickel City Wax & Wane, Transform Wellness Studio, Trait-Carré, Eclectic Energy Wellness Institute, and Salon Valeria
We really need to catch you up on the new places that are offering our magnesium products! These are six local businesses we are very excited about working with:
We are so thankful for the support of these local businesses and we hope you take some time to check them all out!
This may sound strange, but we want you to take a moment and Google “heart disease” and “hard water.” Go ahead! Then, take a moment and scroll through the articles that come up. (And, no, obviously not everything on Google is reliable. But you should be seeing some scientific journal articles come up pretty high on the list…)
What could hard water possibly have to do with heart disease? Minerals. In particular, high levels of calcium and magnesium. And many studies have found a correlation between harder water and lower levels of cardiovascular disease in communities.
If you want to read more about this, Dr. Mildred Seelig and Dr. Andrea Rosanoff explain it in greater depth in the first few pages of The Magnesium Factor (2003, p. 7-10).
Why does having more minerals in your water matter for your cardiovascular health? According to Seelig and Rosanoff (2003), “Heart muscle, when healthy, contains even more magnesium than other muscles do. And when magnesium levels become low, they can drop more in heart muscle cells than in other muscles [...] Blood vessel muscle cells need healthy amounts of magnesium to relax properly after each contraction. They can become stiff and inflexible if their magnesium gets too low” (p. 10). This happens especially if calcium (which tenses or stiffens muscles) is very high, perhaps through supplementation, and is not balanced out by high magnesium.
In Transdermal Magnesium Therapy (2011), Dr. Mark Sircus even goes so far as to say that “If you are interested in heart health you have no choice but to be interested in magnesium” (p. 29). He claims that, if magnesium in the heart muscle drops too much, it can cause rhythm disorders or even spasms and cramps (p. 30). In other words, it can cause angina and even heart attacks.
(For more details about how calcium and magnesium interact in heart muscle, check out this article entitled “Magnesium and Heart Disease: What’s the Link?” by Juliann Schaeffer. Schaeffer cites Seelig and Rosanoff, as well as sharing Dr. Carolyn Dean’s proposal that maintaining high levels of magnesium may actually be more important than being completely focused on cholesterol as is so common in cardiovascular medicine today.)
Magnesium deficiency is also an issue in diabetes and insulin resistance - we will cover that in another newsletter because there is so much information to include!
Does this mean that you can switch from taking your heart medication to taking magnesium? Definitely not - you’ll want to continue any current medications and talk to your doctor about adding magnesium - but it may be able to help! Are there any situations where magnesium is not appropriate to take? It may not be the right choice for you if you have very low blood pressure already or have a kidney condition. Also, it could be a problem for those taking blood thinners like Coumadin or Warfarin. In general, we always advise talking to your doctor about the magnesium (and the essential oils in our balms) if you are on medication!
This recipe is a delicious and satisfying way to use local harvest vegetables that are in season right now. Choose acorn, delicata, or butternut squash - use any squash that looks good in the grocery store or your CSA box!
The recipe includes wild rice, kale, and walnuts (which are all high in magnesium and other minerals), and don't forget to save and roast those squash seeds to put on top - squash and pumpkin seeds are some of the most magnesium rich foods you can eat!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Start cooking wild rice according to package directions - it will take longer than white or brown rice, usually about 45 minutes after bringing it to a boil!
Brush the insides of the squash with 2 tblsp olive oil or butter and sprinkle with ½ tsp of the sage as well as salt and pepper. Place squash cut side up on tinfoil lined cookie sheet and roast for 45-50 minutes (or until fork tender).
While squash is roasting, line a small cookie sheet with tinfoil. Toss squash seeds with 1 tsp olive oil and spread them on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast on separate rack in 400 degree oven for 8 minutes or until lightly toasted.
Heat the other 2 tblsp olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add chopped mushrooms and cook 3-5 minutes until they start to brown. Add sausage and cook until browned as well. Add apple and walnuts and cook until apple starts to soften. Add kale and cook until wilted. When wild rice is done cooking, add it to skillet and stir to combine with the rest of the stuffing ingredients. Season stuffing with the other ½ tsp of sage, ½ tsp thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. (If you are using fresh herbs, you may find that you need more.)
Scoop filling from skillet into acorn squash halves and return to oven for 10-15 minutes until it starts to brown on top. Sprinkle with roasted squash seeds and serve!
You will likely have extra filling. It can be eaten on its own as leftovers the next day or frozen to use for a quick stuffed squash dinner in the future!
Because so much support is needed during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period, we wanted to highlight an organization that is working to provide this support for young women (particularly those who have been in the foster care system) who are pregnant or parenting. According to the Homespace website,
“For the past 20 years, Homespace Corporation has been successfully helping young, single women (age 14-21 years old) to forge a better life for themselves and their children. Homespace provides a safe, nurturing environment where these young women can learn the skills to enhance themselves and their families, and break the cycle of public welfare dependency. Residents receive training in job-readiness, budgeting, household management, nutrition, parenting, as well as comprehensive clinical services.”
These clinical services even include access to doula care (see our post on local doulas for more info on this topic) as well as services like counseling to support mental and emotional health. We are donating a percentage of our September website sales to Homespace to support the young parents in this program!
Have you ever considered hiring a doula for birth support? In the wellness community, we interact pretty regularly with doulas and others offering birth support, so we want to highlight the incredibly important work they are doing!
What is a doula?
A doula is someone who is not a medical practitioner (i.e. not a doctor, nurse, or midwife) but who is a trained and certified professional and a valuable part of your birth team and can offer a wealth of support for you and your partner in what YOU want both during pregnancy, birth, and during the postpartum period.
A doula can provide education to help you make informed decisions regarding your birth plan, and advocate for and empower you in your choices. This may include helping you find the most comfortable movement and positions during labor, helping your partner in supporting you, providing help with post-birth recovery (physical and emotional), assisting with baby-related tasks, or perhaps even making food for you or helping you find healthy and practical food solutions when you bring your baby home. A doula may also offer coaching on helping your baby sleep. Basically, a doula is someone who can respond to your individual needs to help you have the most positive possible birth and postpartum experience.
In terms of the research behind doula support, thank you to the wonderful Colleen Young and Patricia Conner of local business The Doula’s Daughter for highlighting the following study on their website:
According to the study “Continuous support for women during childbirth” (Bohren, Hofmeyr, Sakala, Fukuzawa & Cuthbert, 2017), “Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five‐minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences.” In other words, having a doula can help you to have healthier and safer birth outcomes in a variety of ways!
And because we know that Black women in particular have significantly higher maternal mortality (as well as infant mortality) rates in the United States, access to doulas and higher quality medical care and patient advocacy before, during, and after birth is particularly crucial. Read more in Linda Villarosa’s New York Times article “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis” (2018) to learn about how a combination of toxic stress (Geronimus’ “weathering hypothesis” explains negative health outcomes as a result of living in a culture of discrimination and socioeconomic inequality) and a dismissal of symptoms by medical professionals creates greater risk for Black women and their babies.
If you are looking for local birth support for yourself, a partner, a family member, or a friend, here is a list of the doulas, birth centers, and other resources we have come to be aware of in the community: