How What Where to Compost Part 2: Bins vs. Piles

If you’ve gotten the basics in How What Where to Compost Part 1, below are tips on how to compost in a bin vs. a pile. “Bin” in this context means an enclosed plastic bin.

It can be as simple as a trashcan with holes drilled in it…

Or a more expensive stationary bin that may be open on the bottom, allowing bacteria, worms and other goodies to help the compost accelerate…

Or it may be one that can rotate in place…

Click the images for more info. Bin-wise, I’ve only used a trashcan with holes drilled in it, so I don’t have experience with the other items. I thought they’d be fun to share to get ideas flowing if you’re bin-curious. And here are some more types.


17.5.11 TheWholeRuth Compost

  • EQUALITY: Put in an equal amount of “green” and “brown.” It doesn’t have to be at the same time, but within a few days of adding food scraps or green, add brown.
  • ADD BROWN: Be sure to put in “brown” stuff. Only adding food, without carbon-rich dry brown items, makes the bin too nitrogen-rich, which is stinky and doesn’t make the chemical reaction that creates compost.
  • WATER: Also, while water is usually added to compost, it’s sometimes possible for enclosed bins to use the moisture of the green ingredients to help cook the compost. But if things get too dry, try gently adding in some water when you turn the bin.
  • MORE INFO: If you need more info, read How What Where to Compost


  • NOT TOO HEAVY: Make sure it doesn’t get too heavy to turn. Turning the bin gives the compost the oxygen it needs to work.
  • ROLLING IT AWKWARDLY IS FINE: When we were using a plastic trashcan with drilled holes, we’d slightly tip it and “steer” it, rolling it along the drive-way at an angle to rotate the contents inside.
  • TARP OPTION: If the type of bin you have is stationary or isn’t rollable, an option is to dump out the compost onto a tarp, turn it and then put it back in the bin.
  • MOVE-IT OPTION: If your bin is open to the ground at its base, some people pick up the whole bin off the compost, put it down in a new spot, then return the compost.
  • PITCHFORK OPTION: You can also use a pitchfork to repeatedly push into the pile and lift it straight up. This is hard for me to do.
  • MIXING TOOL OPTION: Some people use a handy compost mixing tool, designed only for turning stationary compost bins! Stick the bottom in and twist the handle to aerate the pile. People say they work wonders. Click to read their good reviews:


  • 1 CUBIC YARD: One cubic yard is the magic size for the pile to really heat up.
  • OUR EXPERIENCE: The following tips are how we make a pile at The Hollywood Orchard:


  • BROWN + GREEN + WATER: Make a layer of green, about an inch thick, then a layer of brown, same thickness, then mix, gently water the layers the whole time you’re mixing, repeat until done.
  • MIX EACH LAYER: To reiterate, instead of mixing it all at the end, we mix each layer. Doing it slowly lets it be thoroughly mixed which helps it cook. It’s physically more manageable to me too.
  • HOW TO MIX: We use a pitch-forky hoe. (I’m sure that’s the proper name.)


  • GLUE: Watering while mixing lets the moisture go deep into the layer to hold it together like glue. This lets the pile get really tall and reach a cubic yard.
  • NO MOISTURE, NO HEAT: Without watering each layer, it apparently doesn’t cook!
  • SPONGE GOAL: The pile should be saturated to where you could wring the compost out like a sponge. But if water is trickling down the sides, it’s too much.


  • Next to the pile, have a second space as large as the one that holds the pile. 
  • Shovel the top layer onto the empty spot and repeat the same watering/ mixing for each layer like before. 
  • The top layer will become the bottom layer and the bottom becomes the top.
  • The top layer will have cooked the least because it was exposed to the air.
  • The inside will be more cooked, even ashy sometimes, or still steaming!
  • So flipping allows the whole thing a chance to cook evenly. 
  • More new green or brown can be added every time a pile is flipped.
  • At the end, cover everything in a layer of brown to reduce smells.
  • For a visual, in the photo above, we moved the pile from the left space, where the pitchfork is, to the right. 
  • (I thought we would flip the pile in place, which seemed hard, messy and confusing. Putting it next to where it was, made it so easy to flip! That may seem obvious, but living in apartments for most of my life has apparently made my brain not think of space as an option. Having a 2nd spot blew my mind!)
  • If you don’t have an extra plot to flip the pile, some people dump out the compost onto a tarp, turn it and then put it back in its original spot. Or you can try the pitchfork or mixing tool options above.


  • Turning or flipping a pile can be done once a week.
  • Turning it every 3 weeks or whenever is fine too, it’ll just take longer for the pile to be “finished.”
  • A pile can be turned as often as every three days to finish the project more quickly.
  • Whether it’s every 3 days, once a week, or however long, turn the pile 3-4 times for it to become “done.”


  • Horse poo really has a hard time breaking down. (Another gardening friend recently said that chicken poo or sheep poo work wonders! And cow poo, too, because their four stomachs break the food down more than a horse’s stomach.)
  • We still use horse poo though.
  • If we see something that is stuck in a clump, we break it up with our hands.
  • The Hollywood Orchard doesn’t worry about avocado pits or too many acidic fruits. Our philosophy so far is that it’ll all break down eventually.
  • Remember to chop up whatever large things go in the pile, food, twigs, etc., to help it “digest” more quickly. What does large mean? A whole orange is better halved or quartered, a branch is better in 3 inch pieces or at least smaller than it started.
  • We usually use sheers to chop the ingredients. Whatever container holds the ingredients beforehand, a bucket, a trashcan, or whatever, we stick the sheers in and just chop around crazy until it feels like the right size. Or until we’re too tired to keep chopping.


This option is sort of a mix of the other two. It’s like an open-air pile in an enclosure. I don’t have experience with this, but will soon! We’re currently making one. I’ll update as we learn more. Below are some examples (click images for info). Here are more.


Would love to hear how you do it.

For general composting info, check out How What Where to Compost.

Need inspiration? Maybe this will fluff your muffins: Why to Compost

My favorite context for the word “bin” (at 4:10): Life in Quarantine After 55 Days

Compost by faisalovers from the Noun Project

How What Where to Compost

These guidelines are true for any compost, whether it’s done in a bin, in a pile, or in the ground. (More info: Compost Bins vs. Piles)

  • Compost needs about 50% green ingredients, 50% brown ingredients, oxygen and water.


  • “Green” is anything with moisture. It can be any color. Food scraps, grass, leaves, coffee grounds, (non-pet) manure…
  • Green is nitrogen-rich.
  • If there is too much green, it will get very stinky. If this is happening, add more brown. (Also, too much green means too much nitrogen, which means it could burn plants if it was used as fertilizer in this stinky form.)


  • “Brown” is anything dry. Dry leaves, brown paper bags, wood chips, egg cartons…
  • Brown is carbon-rich.
  • It helps to cover the compost with a layer of only brown to keep the smell enclosed.


  • The compost needs oxygen to work. That’s why it’s important to turn bins or flip piles when making compost, to let oxygen reach different parts of the compost. Also, make sure there is air circulating around the compost.


  • The compost needs moisture, so add water to give it more oxygen and help it cook.


  • No: No meat, dairy, fish, or animal food oils can go in the compost, unless it’s bokashi (More info: Compost Indoors or Meat & Dairy = BOKASHI). No pet waste because sometimes it has bacteria that can survive the heat of the pile.
  • Shrinkage: Whatever size the compost starts out, it will end up being much smaller when it’s done. (Sort of like cooking fresh spinach)
  • Organic: If you’re trying to make organic compost, make sure yard trimmings you use (fresh grass, brown leaves, etc) come from a yard that doesn’t use pesticides. Anything that is non-organic, we still compost in our city’s green bin.
  • Chop it: We chop up twigs and branches with shears before adding them to the compost. Making everything into smaller pieces helps the compost digest more quickly and easily, like chewing for our tummies.


A few years ago, a farmer friend of mine taught me that compost piles get hot and they are actually cooking the carbon-rich brown & nitrogen-rich green scraps. They get so hot, about 140 degrees, that the creatures one might worry about staying inside the pile (bad bacteria, bugs and any rodents who might smell tasty treats inside the pile) can’t live there anymore. It’s too hot so they leave. Pretty cool, huh? (Pun inaccurate and not intended.)

When a pile is flipped, sometimes there is ash inside. A pile covered in winter snow will still cook and sometimes steam will still rise off of the covering snow! The Hollywood Orchard hosts a 6th grade field trip for the local school and a few days before the kids come, they put an egg and potato inside the compost so when the kids arrive, they can see the egg is hard-boiled and then play hot-potato with the weird stinky potato!

When the compost has been turned a few times to allow the whole thing to cook, there will be only good bacteria and healthy, nutrient-rich compost.


  • No meat, dairy or animal products (bones, butter, fish skins) or pet waste

Nitrogen/ “Green”:

  • Fruits & veggies
  • Peels, skins & cores of fruits & veggies
  • Herbs & spices
  • Nutshells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Pits & seeds
  • Grains & beans
  • Tea bags without the staples
  • Chemical-free hair
  • Chemical-free fingernails
  • Feathers from the down sofa or birds outside
  • Fresh house plant leaves
  • Store-bought flower bouquets (only for the city green bin if your goal is organic)

Carbon/ “Brown”:

  • Shredded brown paper bags
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Brown, dry leaves (you can get them from parks sometimes, ideally they’d be from a pesticide-free yard)
  • Vacuum cleaner or sweeping dust
  • Ash from a firepit that used wood
  • Dry house plant leaves
  • Wood chips (ideally chemical-free/ non-treated)


Collect your food scraps in the freezer or fridge, so they don’t smell or attract bugs. You can keep them in glass or plastic tupperware, or you have regular plastic bags, you can use those and wash them out and re-use them. Or use compostable bags. Or to create less waste, you can keep them in a bowl with no lid or a brown paper bag that can be tossed in to the compost.

You can also collect scraps in a smell-absorbing compost bucket on your counter-top. (We use this one. During the summer ant-parades, we keep it in the fridge.)


When you’re ready to compost, put your food scraps and brown compostable waste in:

  • your yard in a compost pile above ground
  • a pit in the ground with or without doors to seal it
  • a fenced in compost area
  • a plastic compost bin that turns
  • a wooden compost bin that allows for air circulation
  • a homemade compost trashcan with holes drilled in the sides

More information on this part of the process: How to Compost in Bins & Piles


  • your green or brown bin from the city
  • your indoor or outdoor worm bin (no acidic food or oils)
  • an indoor bokashi compost bucket
  • your friend’s compost
  • the compost collection of a community organization, farmer’s market or restaurant that accepts compost. (See more info below)
  • a compost hub
  • a compost co-op

For folks in Los Angeles:

  • LA Compost collects food scraps at:
    • The Atwater Farmer’s Market, every Sunday 10am-2pm (double check the LA Compost site)
    • The Los Feliz Farmer’s Market, 1st & 3rd Sundays 9am -1pm (double check the LA Compost site)
    • A slew of community hubs listed on their website
    • Community co-ops


It seems like it’s possible that everyone can participate in some part of the compost cycle. But getting started may be difficult without seeing the magic in action. In my experience, composting can a passionate team sport or an invigorating ice-skating solo. Reading about it may be all you need to start on your own, but it can also be helpful to find some experienced folks who will let you watch their process or answer questions about how they do it. You could also find a free class or offer to temporarily help a community garden with their compost. I learn so much by helping flip the pile every so often at our beloved Hollywood Orchard.

If you want to do it in a group, there may be compost hubs or compost co-ops near you that you can join.

Whether working with others or solo, I suggest trying to get comfy with the idea that trial and error is part of the process no matter what, and it can be exciting and beautiful.

For folks in Los Angeles:

  • The City gives some free workshops and discounted compost bins and worm bins.
  • Kiss the Ground also has free compost workshops sometimes, listed on their FB page.
  • Grow Good gives free classes from time to time. This LA Times article has more info.
  • The Burbank Recycle Center has a free compost workshop the last Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm from March – November, you just have to RSVP.
  • The Hollywood Orchard in Beachwood Canyon offers opportunities to work on their compost pile where the compost-curious can learn via hand-on practice. Join the Hollywood Orchard mailing list and ask to be informed of when we get together to work on our compost pile, then come play in the dirt with us!


Why to Compost


Whenever you’d like. Composting can seem tricky, but I feel like you’ll know when you’re ready. To me, love is the main ingredient. Add some to the compost, and some to yourself. It lets you keep trying until you figure out what works for you.

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Compost Story infographic


Why to Compost

Carbon dioxide in the air is pollution. Carbon in the soil is healthy… Anything that is alive is made of carbon, including us.

When we sweep leaves away from our lawns, we’re sweeping away that area’s food. Those leaves, flowers, seeds and natural debris, that are often seen as mess, would normally stay and break down into food for the soil and become food for the plants in that space.

It is often said to rotate crops because one type of plant will eat certain nutrients in that spot and another type of plant would eat other nutrients, letting the depleted nutrients build back up for a while. But naturally, a tomato plant drops its seeds in the same place and grows again. Why? My guess is that a tomato plant would normally die in its spot, make green & brown waste, mix with rain or snow and other fallen leaves, and become its own food next year, replenishing the soil’s nutrients. Without humans taking away their “mess,” they feed themselves. It seems the seeds would ride the wind or in the belly of an animal and end up popping up in new places too, but they’d have peace-of-mind knowing they carry a cycle of food with them where ever they go.

But why do we care about feeding the soil to feed plants? Firstly, because CARBON.

When the soil is depleted, it can’t pull carbon into itself or keep it there. Carbon dioxide in the air is pollution. Carbon in the soil is healthy. It becomes food for the soil’s bacteria. Anything that is alive- plants, animals, soil- is made of carbon, including us. There was a balanced cycle of carbon dying and becoming new life, but we added too much carbon to the atmosphere with fossil fuels and took away the ground’s ability to absorb carbon with our agriculture practices. This combination is creating pollution that is killing the planet that keeps us alive.

Ryland Englehart, co-founder of Kiss the Ground, a non-profit in LA, shares that between carbon extraction via fossil fuels and our agriculture practices, “We’ve moved 880 giga-tons [880,000,000,000 tons] of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is heating up the planet and destabilizing our climate. Now, the oceans have absorbed a lot of this excess carbon which is resulting in ocean acidification and accelerating a mass extinction of sea life… Where do we put this excess carbon to get this cycle back into balance? The answer is literally… under our feet. It’s the soil.”

When plants photosynthesize, they pull carbon out of the air and turn it into sugars that go into their roots feeding bacterial colonies, mycorrhizal funghi, and aggregates. These creatures increase the root capacity by the thousands, turn the sugars into nutrients for the plant and create an environment that can store carbon for decades. “Plants pump it in and soil stores it. Nature’s living technology is amazing!”

Making our own compost and returning it to the land, pulls more carbon into the ground which helps heal climate change. (More info: watch this Kiss the Ground video.)

Also, putting the missing link back in the cycle by composting creates less landfill trash that would become methane gas.

When compost is added to an edible garden and the soil gets richer, the plants in the healthy, bacteria-rich soil don’t need pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They can be next to plants with disease and not get sick. It’s like our human immune systems: we need good bacteria (probiotics), nutrients and minerals for our organs to fight off disease. When our immune systems are strong, we’re less likely to catch something that would infect a less healthy person. Plants are the same way.

And the same way that we have to continuously eat nutrients to maintain our health, so do the plants. As we keep eating and creating food scraps, plants keep needing the scraps. Their need keeps landfills thinner and eventually, our bellies fuller. All while eliminating the need for hormone-disrupting, pollution-causing chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Helping the plant’s immune system ends up helping ours too. The garden food ends up having more nutrients for us, tasting better, and ultimately providing healing and prevention for many of our chronic diseases.

Plus plants in healthy soil need less water, which saves water. And people composting on their own land also reduces their city’s need to collect yard waste, saving more resources.

Lastly, if you are able to turn a pile, studies show that being around soil bacteria reduces depression (It’s the probiotics in the soil). And I believe any nature calms us in some way, from being around a lush forest to being around one fruit from one tree, even putting its peel-scraps in a bucket in my kitchen.

Overall, all pieces of the cycle benefit people, soil, plants, animals and the planet.

These are just my reasons though, why do you compost if you do?

How What Where to Compost

Jada & Gabrielle Share about Codependence

I ADORE THIS. !!! Thank you thank you thank you both for sharing!! Please, anyone who comes across this post, watch this wonderful video. If anyone watching this can’t afford an AJ (the wonderful life coach), I highly recommend reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It, and the journey it starts, has helped me so much and changed my life.

It’s about $12 on Amazon or free in this Youtube video.

I’ve been learning new behaviors, much like the experiences shared in this video, over the last 3 years and while it’s an ongoing process, it has given me clarity and an understanding of the world in a way that I never had.

The video only mentions codependence one time, but in learning about the word over the years, it means so much more than what it sounds like, and most of the subjects in this video fall under its umbrella.

Although there is not one single definition of codependence, there are over 50 codependent traits. Where I am today, a short definition of my codependence could be: “being someone who has a difficult time maintaining my authentic self in front of others” or “being dependent on anything else to fill my self-esteem or to distract me from my lack of it.” The word “anything” leaves the range of options very open! And that range often includes extreme opposite behaviors, like people pleasing vs. isolation, even though both equal codependence. The result of the dependence on outside sources for self-esteem is often an unhealthy relationship with oneself and others, which creates an inability to have real intimacy, which can lead to deep sadness and anxiety.

I didn’t recognize any of these behaviors in myself. I thought I was fine. But I knew my closest relationship left me feeling an ache that was dangerous. Luckily, someone opened up vulnerably in front of me about her imperfect relationship and after years of swallowing my pain, I randomly opened up to her. She told me to read that book.

Finally, I’m growing bit by bit toward real intimacy. Progress not perfection is a daily goal now. And as someone who never wanted to let anyone down, imperfection terrifies me, but finally makes room for me to live, take up space, and experience real authenticity and love with myself and others around me who are interested in authenticity and love.

I used to think that love was sacrifice or was shown by proving I would never abandon. I used to think I had to be needed in order to have a friendship or relationship. To learn what a healthy relationship is is mind-blowing to me. When I started to learn and accept my true self, I could let go enough to not be needed. To trust that without earning, I can be wanted. Just for me as I am now. Whew, that’s terrifying to write! But the times I’ve been able to put it into practice, it’s beautiful and creates real connection for me.

I had heard so many wonderful ideas in my life. Like “Be grateful” or “Detachment is healthy.” But in this journey, I’ve found that those ideas start at the end. Detachment hasn’t come first for me, self-acceptance, autonomy and self love are coming first, and detachment and gratitude are beautiful byproducts. I couldn’t let go until I had myself, my gut instinct and something bigger than me, to hold onto and trust.

It’s a daily struggle, but now I have many imperfect people around, who are also focused on healing, to grow with, and many tools to try to reconnect to love. I forget all day long. I was so practiced the other way for so long. I worry in a loop, I criticize my almost every thought, I use whatever I can to distract myself from feeling or healing. But when I can authentically allow love back in, the world shifts in a blessed way. It has been horribly difficult to learn this. But I’m beyond grateful for it all.

I believe that the type of individual growth Jada & Gabrielle are sharing about helps people heal and slowly start to manage addiction, anxiety and depression. It’s so good to see this deep discussion by people in the limelight. So grateful to these ladies for their vulnerability! THANK YOU again!!!!!

Sending love to those currently healing and who hope to heal


Food Waste: Throwing Away More Than Food

“As much as 40% of all the food produced in the United States never gets eaten according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council… Americans throw away $165 billion dollars worth of food every year. That’s about 20 pounds per person, every month… The US Department of Agriculture says Americans throw away enough food every year to fill 730 football stadiums… US per capita food waste has increased by about 50% since 1974.” John Oliver just taught me so much about food waste in America. This is basically a recap of the episode. If you have time to watch it, he’s much funnier than I am! If not, here are some things I learned, plus some experiences and research he inspired me to share.

We’re throwing away that much food while at the same time, according to the USDA, “in 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households.”

Throwing away this food not only keeps it from hungry families, it results in landfills creating methane gas, wasted money we spent to buy the food, wasted money paid to the people who grew it, and wasted water and resources used to make the food. For example, throwing away one egg wastes 55 gallons of water.

Some food is thrown away because we usually won’t buy the last few fruits or veggies because we think the last options have something wrong with them. But if it’s made it as far as getting on a shelf, it has already passed strict USDA standards for pretty produce. So there is most likely not anything wrong with the lonely, pretty produce on the shelf. Where does the non-pretty produce go? It’s labeled “#2 Produce” by the USDA and as soon as that happens, “It can lose 2/3 of its market value to a farmer.” So it usually goes into the trash.

Also, confusing food-date labels cause many people to throw food out before it’s gone bad. “Except for baby food, the federal government doesn’t require any food to have a safety date on it. The states have varied laws about it, with nine states not requiring labels at all.” The food-date labels we see are put on by the manufacturing companies, but aren’t as official as we think. Some could be putting earlier dates to encourage us to buy products more often or to protect themselves from lawsuits. Or some could be putting accurate dates. Either way, “many grocery stores throw out food before its sell-by date.” And they don’t donate it.

I’ve was told in 2008 by friendly employees at Whole Foods that they used to donate food to homeless shelters at the end of each night, but now they don’t because they got sued by homeless people who got food poisoning from their donation. I have repeated their words a few times over the years. I believed them and I think they believed themselves. John Oliver thought that too! But he found out that “there has never been a case where a food donor has been sued.” And he found out that that’s because the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act covers “any food donated to a charity by saying you can not get sued if you make a food donation in good faith.”

But donating costs companies money and time because of overhead like boxing, storing and delivery coordination. Oliver suggests tax breaks to incentivize companies to donate. Large companies already get those tax breaks, but small companies are written into the tax code in a way that Congress has to continually renew their donation tax breaks. So local restaurants and local farms may not know if they will get the break at the end of each year.

In 2015 (when this video was released), the Fighting Hunger Act of 2015 was proposed to make the tax breaks permanent, but it eventually became the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and all food donation language was removed.

In researching it, it would have increased the deficit by $1.9 billion by 2024. It also gave the same tax breaks to any corporation whose gross income from the business of farming was more than 50% of their gross income. The executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger said the bill didn’t “carefully separate the farmers who would be able to give away more food from big corporations that are just going to get another tax break.”

Nonetheless, it seems like this shouldn’t be tabled and our government should be spending time and energy on finding ways to help small businesses more easily help the hungry in our country.

And there are many other efforts being made to reduce food waste. Smithsonian Magazine said in 2015, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency recently called for a 50-percent reduction in food waste by 2030. Meanwhile, Portland launched a citywide composting program a few years ago, and at the retail level, the former president of Trader Joe’s recently opened a store near Boston that sells surplus food donated by grocery stores at rock-bottom prices.

Even simple changes can have big effects. A few years ago, college cafeterias across the U.S. began to go trayless. Carrying two plates at most rather than trays piled high with all-you-can-serve and all-you-can-eat daredevilry forced students to think about what they really wanted to eat. The seemingly simple move, which more than 120 colleges chose to adopt, helped reduce food consumption and waste by 25 to 30 percent in some colleges.”

Oliver proposes solutions from: “Resolving to eat uglier fruit, to taking expirations dates with a pinch of salt, to no longer worrying about getting sued by high-powered lawyers representing the hungry… We all have to address our relationship with food waste.”

I think the best expiration date decider is my nose.

Also, I found a new company called Imperfect Produce in Los Angeles that can deliver a small box of organic imperfect fruits and veggies to my door for $15-$17. (

And I volunteer at the Hollywood Orchard (, a nearby non-profit that collects free fruit from neighborhood trees and donates it to local charities. Food Forward, Food Finders and many others are in LA. There are also many non-profits across the country like Feeding America who act as delivery-middlemen between food vendors (grocery stores, restaurants) and food providers (soup kitchens, food banks). (Here is a blog where I got to celebrate the joys of Hollywood Orcharding…)

Shane and I also rarely waste our own food. We keep our leftovers at restaurants. And we eat them. We keep other people’s leftovers, with their permission of course. And we eat them. We buy in small, fresh portions from the grocery store and buy in small, fresh portions again. We try to use up what we have, but if we can’t, we compost what is left. We also compost the peels and pits and extra bits that come off of what we do use. We make up new meals with whatever is there. We get it wrong sometimes, but that is part of the freedom of putting our health first. Having fresh food is worth it.


We try to eat seasonally and it teaches us that we aren’t in charge. We try to flow with the food and we learn from it. We try to make decisions to live in a way that leaves time to make our meals, go to the store often, chop the contents of our CSA box, and know what is in the fridge, pantry and garden. It’s taken a long time to clear time for that time. But we are grateful for the growth over the years and we’re still growing.

Watering our garden, learning which plants like what amount of light and what kind of soil, learning the organic way to keep pests at bay, watching our garden grow… Picking our own olives and curing them for weeks and weeks… Growing a tree from seed knowing that it won’t make its own fruit for seven years… Learning that you can dip a branch in a hormone powder, stick it in the ground, and it will grow a tree, because plants have and need hormones in order to create just like us… Seeing that the difference between a fertile gerbera daisy seed and a non-fertile one is that the fertile one is swollen… A male butternut squash flower is a cone, but the female is swollen… They can get pregnant like we can. And it takes time for them to bear fruit, just like we do.

And all the beautiful creatures that are involved in making one fruit, the bees, the hummingbirds, the earthworms, the bacteria in the soil, the minerals in the rain water, even the gas from decaying sea plankton that has evaporated into the clouds and rained down has something beneficial for the plants…

When we waste food that goes into a landfill instead of composting back into the circle of food, we waste all of these things. We waste the time, the light, the water, the creatures, our time and energy used to earn the money we wasted to buy it; we waste the nourishment, the extension of our own existence, and the delicious and delightful experience it comes in.

I hope you and your family, or just you, are able to make steps toward enjoying and using each bit of food you have. Thanks John Oliver & Co. for this new knowledge and inspiration.

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Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Episode at top of the page

Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015 Passes House

Why Don’t Some Grocery Stores Donate Food to Poor People

This Is How Much Water You Waste When You Throw Away Food

“Doormat and Boots”…a love story

everything this woman says is exactly what i’ve been working on for the past year. each word resonates with me and feels warm to read. i’m mid-this. but i feel so much better already. i have more inner presents to open and wrestle or acknowledge or celebrate, but growth is happening and i’m grateful.

Basically Well


Being a doormat, at its roots, is the same as being the dirty boots.

One lays there and takes on All, while the other wipes off an ugly collection of experiences. Neither are balanced and both love from a deep place of pain, in a very selfish manner, out of control and self preservation. Underlying, in both, are similar wounds that cause a fictional story to rerun in their minds, with titles like: “You are not enough” or “You don’t matter” or “You can’t do anything right” or “You are insignificant” and “Prove your love” The titles might be slightly different, their circumstances of origin slightly different, but, the central moral of the story is always the same. It is those old, often used, yet, absolutely true words “You cannot fully love another unless you’ve truly loved yourself first”.

Now, these are merely my words, written out of observation, personal…

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Can’t Sleep? Have Anxiety? Relax with this drug that will ERASE YOUR MIND! AAAAA!

Can’t sleep so I’m reading about insomnia. Just discovered the sleeping pill my mom’s been taking for insomnia for 5 years has an 84% chance of giving her Alzheimer’s. Great way to calm myself before bed. Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Restoril and Klonopin, to name a few, are not to be taken lightly. Or more literally, they are.

My 85 year-old Nana, mom’s mom, whose mind is like a whip, informed me about this article. Mom’s doctor has never mentioned it. He knows she shouldn’t be on it long term but has never brought up dementia as a reason.

He keeps her on the drug because the only antidepressants that are slightly effective for her give her insomnia. So the sleeping pill is to fix a side effect of the antidepressants. Her doctors have spent 24 years unable to find the right mix of antidepressants to help her mind stay balanced, yet those half-way effective antidepressants have led her doctors to give her benzodiazepines which could lead her mind to stop working.

Also, did I mention she’s been forgetting significant things in the past two months? (Or did I forget to say that? Get it? Not funny.) This happens on certain drugs she’s taken over the years and usually goes away with a medicine change, but it’s relevant each time and was what made me curious about the article in the first place.

Most importantly, I know there are natural ways to heal her brain. So it doesn’t feel as hopeless as these statistics sound.

I just wanted to share this article and let off some fresh steam. This isn’t just about mom. Lots of people take “benzos” regularly the same way people drink alcohol to forget their troubles. Benzos might let people hide their anxiety from themselves temporarily, but long-term they could be sadly hiding themselves entirely.

“The authors of the study created an index that gauged the intensity of a participant’s benzodiazepine use and found that at the end of a five-year period following an initial prescription, Alzheimer’s risk mounted steadily. Those who took the cumulative equivalent of daily doses for three to six months over a five-year period were roughly 32% more likely than those who took none to develop Alzheimer’s. Those who took the cumulative equivalent of a full daily dose for more than six months were 84% more likely to do so.

International medical guidelines recommend the use of benzodiazepines as treatment for anxiety disorders and transcient insomnia, but caution that they are not meant for long-term use, and should not be taken steadily for more than three months. But many patients continue to take these drugs for years.”

Update: Mom told her doctor about this article and he immediately took her off of her sleeping pills. So grateful she wants to be well and actively participates in her health. And that Nana helps too. And that her doctor listens and continues to learn. And that her entire support system listens and continues to learn too, me included 🙂 Her tenacity and ours keeps her safe. It took a while to find something that would help her sleep, but they did. And while that is almost keeping her afloat day to day, she is working long term on doing things that will give her the best chance of reversing her chances of Alzheimer’s. But that’s another story.

Full LA Times article below:

la times alzheimers benzos

Drugs used for anxiety, sleep are linked to Alzheimer’s disease in older people

September 9 2014, by Melissa Healy

Older people who have relied on a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety or induce sleep are at higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, new research finds, with those whose use of the medications is most intensive almost twice as likely to develop the mind-robbing disorder.

Benzodiazepines — marketed under such names as as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin — are widely used to treat insomnia, agitation and anxiety, all of which can be early signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. But the current study sought to disentangle benzodiazepines’ use in treating early dementia symptoms, probing instead the possibility that heavy use of the medications may permit, cause or hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The study compared the pattern of benzodiazepine use in 1,796 elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with that of 7,184 similar people who had no such diagnosis. Such a study design, conducted by French and Canadian researchers and published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, cannot by itself establish that more intensive use of the medications causes Alzheimer’s disease. But it does strengthen such suspicions.

Among the study participants over 66 who were living independently in the Canadian province of Quebec, those who took low-dose benzodiazepine medication, or who took higher doses but very briefly or infrequently, did not see their Alzheimer’s risk go up five years after they were first prescribed such a medication. But the picture was more worrisome for those who frequently took long-acting benzodiazepines, who frequently took high doses, or who took any such drugs regularly over several months.

The benzodiazepines specifically considered by the researchers were the short-acting anti-anxiety medications alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), oxazepam (Seresta) and diazepam (Valium), and the longer-acting anti-seizure and “hypnotic” drugs frequently used to treat insomnia: clonazepam (Klonopin), flurazepam (Dalmane), midazolam (Versed), nitrazepam (Mogadon), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion).

The widely prescribed prescribed medicines marketed as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata (generically named zolpidem, eszopiclone and zaleplon) are “atypical benzodiazepines” and were not included in the analysis.

The authors of the study created an index that gauged the intensity of a participant’s benzodiazepine use and found that at the end of a five-year period following an initial prescription, Alzheimer’s risk mounted steadily. Those who took the cumulative equivalent of daily doses for three to six months over a five-year period were roughly 32% more likely than those who took none to develop Alzheimer’s. Those who took the cumulative equivalent of a full daily dose for more than six months were 84% more likely to do so.

There’s already strong research evidence that frequent or regular benzodiazepine use degrades memory and mental performance in humans and animals. And some research suggests that with regular use of this class of drugs, the receptors to which they bind in the brain become less active. And lower activity of those receptors has been linked to cognitive decline.

“In view of the evidence, it is now crucial to encourage physicians to carefully balance the risks and benefits when initiating or renewing a treatment with benzodiazepines and related products in older patients,” the authors wrote.

International medical guidelines recommend the use of benzodiazepines as treatment for anxiety disorders and transcient insomnia, but caution that they are not meant for long-term use, and should not be taken steadily for more than three months. But many patients continue to take these drugs for years. In addition to their cognitive effects, benzodiazepines are widely implicated in the national epidemic of opioid pain medication overdoses and fatalities that result from mixing them with alcohol and opioid drugs.

The Dreamer Becomes the Dream

“True desire, in the heart, for anything good is God’s proof to you, sent beforehand to indicate, that it’s yours already… That itch that you have to be whatever you want to be… You already have it. Claim it… Understand this also: you have these dreams… Dreams without goals remain dreams and ultimately fuel disappointment… Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.”

– Denzel Washington

For the first time in life, I hear these words in regards to myself as a human and not as an actor. All of the energy I was putting toward characters, learning craft, practicing, pushing my limits, challenging myself, and believing I deserved the success I wanted and fulfillment I needed as an artist… there were times when all of that came naturally for me as an actor, but I have never allowed them for myself as a person. So I didn’t think of healthy relationships and a healthy mind, body, and spirit as dreams and therefore never made goals to reach them.

I’ve recently started to apply (when I have the strength, or sometimes when I am encouraged by someone else to be honest even if it might hurt them) the same passion, curiosity and fearlessness, that I used to apply to my career, to my life. While it is uncomfortable, the bursts of change release into moments of living in truth which is vibrant, simple and priceless. With consistency and discipline, the bursts will become one consistent moment of truth that will become life.

It’s Not Your Fault, Matt Damon: Fed Up, a Documentary about Sugar

fed up statistic

I just watched Fed Up, an important, helpful, honest documentary about US obesity, especially in kids. If you have Netflix, you can stream it right now. This very moment. If you aren’t in such a hurry, no worries. I’m totally psyched about it.

The best thing about this movie is that it points out how our weight gain is not our fault. And it explains why.

I remember in the mid 2000’s doing what I thought was right: researching, paying attention and acting on what I learned in regards to food. I wasn’t fad dieting; I was making lifestyle changes. When I learned, later in the decade, that I had been misguided and had wasted years and money on unhealthy foods, I was very angry. Angry at companies for lying to me, at the government for guiding me with unhealthy guidelines that they said were healthy, and angry at myself for not being smart enough to notice.

fed up logo

The ways in which I was misguided were many, but this film focuses on one of them: sugar. I knew I had a “sweet tooth” but I never saw it as a wild, ravenous, over consumption of sugar until I saw an episode of Ellen. Dr. Wayne Dyer was the guest and they talked about how much sugar humans ate years ago versus now. Here Dr. Dyer talks about it in another interview:


“…In the 19th century… the average amount of sugar consumed by Americans was around 13 grams a day and today its 285 grams. That’s like a 500% increase in the amount of sugar consumed! …If you just get your sugar consumption down to under 15 grams a day… Well, a banana has 11 grams of sugar! An eight ounce glass of orange juice has 35 grams of sugar in it. So it’s a pretty radical shift. Sugar is in everything! If you start looking at what’s on the packaging you’ll see huge amounts of it; in some cases its 100 grams in one serving…

If you get it down below 15 grams a day, or even just below 40 grams a day, you’ll take off between 15–17 pounds, which is about what I wanted to take off. I am not overweight. But I am thicker and I just decided to look at the excuses I have used to stay this way and put this paradigm to work. Sure enough, in less than 30 days I have taken off 17 pounds all the way around the middle. So, you can really make these kinds of shifts.”

At the time I learned this, I was going to a nutritionist who told me I could have raw, organic honey as one of my sugar sources. “Oh, wonderful!” I said. “I already eat that!” The nurse asked, “What do you eat it with?” I said, “…a spoon.” I told her that I had seen this man speak on Ellen and I was aiming to have 20 grams of sugar a day. But I would be fine with myself if I went way over, because even 45 grams was way less than the 285 grams Dr. Dyer was talking about. The nurse gave me a new goal. Instead of telling myself I can have 20 grams of sugar a day, and then standing over the honey jar with a spoon and crazy eyes, just tell myself “I can have less sugar. Just less.” It’s years later and I don’t even buy honey anymore.


Now that I look back, I think it may have been so difficult to quit my sugar habit because having a little bit had lead me to wanting more. Brain scans in the movie reveal that sugar is as addictive as cocaine. Rats will choose sugar over cocaine. This makes me feel better. Not for those dear rats, poor things. Sugar Crack Rats. Me and those rats don’t stand a chance; sugar will kick our asses. But it seems now that I don’t buy sugar, I’m not tempted. There is no sugar in the house. And over the years, my cravings finally settled down.

fed up sugar cocaine

I think my transition, though, was unfair in a horrible and lucky way. I had spinal and foot injuries that resulted in my isolation, plus poordom, plus not having a car during the years that I was hurt, plus not having a TV for seven years, which all means I’m insane. Also those things meant that I really didn’t have to use will power while I was learning about nutrition. If there was no sugar in the house, I couldn’t drive to get some, or walk there, and if I did, I didn’t have money to buy it, and I didn’t totally care because I didn’t have commercials to *remind me that I love Reese’s peanut butter cups. *Reese’s peanut butter cups, I love you and will never forget that. Commercials just make me lustlove you.


Instead of calling a sugar addiction the darling name of “sweet tooth,” it should be called a “sharp-fanged sugar monster.” Even that sounds sort of adorable and mildly… edible? I didn’t have a sweet tooth. I had a set of razor fangs that would leave the sanity of the world behind while devouring a whole pie in the middle of the night alone, or right from under your nose while you are talking to me at a party. Sugar is more important than whatever you are trying to say to me, or my own dignity, or my own sleep. But we give it such a cute name, “sweet tooth.” It’s much harder to tilt my head to one side and smile with chocolate smeared on my face and say, “Aw, sorry, I have a demon monster inside me that is addicted to sugar because I’m scared of my feelings.” It’s way longer to say, first of all.

My sugar monster now only comes out about 25% of the time that it used to. Now I understand not only the connection between sugar and the reward center of the brain, but also the mind, body, spirit connection to my need for comfort food. If I’m distracting myself with a sugar high, I’m running from some feeling my mind thinks is too scary to let me see. If my mind doesn’t know how to deal with it and can’t foresee the exact outcome and that it would be positive, it tells me to look at something sparkly, claps its hands and says, “Look over here! Isn’t this shiny?! OOO- Let’s eat a pizza.” I still fall for it sometimes. Even though I’ve since learned that the crust breaks down in my body as pure sugar, so it’s not just a cheese fix, it’s a sweet fix too! Sugar should be in the CIA. It’s very sneaky.

fed up sugar names

But I’ve come to be more interested in the idea that I need to become empty before I can fill myself spiritually. Drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, sugar and many other things can make humans feel whole. But unless we empty the places those things fill, we can’t look at the hole they leave in order to fill it with real, lasting contentment. Knowing this, in combination with seeing that the fake fills weren’t helping over time, now makes my shiny pizza monster a little less attractive. (What if that was what I called my vagina? That would be the worst.)


I’m proud of Fed Up for being realistic with Americans by truthfully sharing that advertising leads us towards sugar, but that we are expected to act as though advertising doesn’t affect us and take care of ourselves through sheer will power. The advertising clearly affects us and that’s why companies invest in it. And will power against something so addictive, even without the advertising, would obviously be difficult. On top of all that, most of the advertising presents many sugar-filled foods as healthy or diet, fat-free or sugar-free so most of the time we don’t even know to use will power against those foods. Usually we’re told to use our will power for them.

fed up comparison

When the film teaches the psychological science behind how we respond to advertising, sugar, and sugar advertising, it lets people feel sane for being confused about why they can’t lose weight. Not only are unhealthy people fighting an uphill battle, they are usually left in the cold feeling like it’s their fault. And when I feel alone and confused, I eat more.

One of my favorite fact nuggets in the film was that when kids were given a snack to eat while they watched a tv show with food commercials vs. the same tv show with non-food commercials, they ate 45% more snack food. I got hungry just when I wrote the word nuggets.


I also learned in the movie how much fast food is now offered in America’s schools. Pairing that with how humans are wired to behave with certain food, brings to light that leaving our children alone with unhealthy foods and their own will power is truly neglectful. It seems easy to blame the parents and say they just have to make lunches for their kids. But as long as there are unhealthy options at school, the battle will be lost. I usually brought a lunch to school, but I figured out how to get the good tasting stuff. Trade things or bring a bit of money when I could to buy something. If it’s there, I want it.

Most adults I know are this way. And it’s not because they don’t know better. It’s because humans are designed to look for fat, salt, and sugar because those things used to be scarce. If the office has homemade cookies out for free, and then a birthday party with cake, and then someone brings in chocolates, we usually have a hard time not eating all of those things. Some people don’t like to waste food, some people don’t like to bring the mood down by saying no, some people want to fit in, some people want to be nice to the person who took the time to make cookies, some people are sleepy and need a pick-me-up, some people want to make out with their coworker but they can’t so some sugar is a close second, some people want to punch their boss in the face and going to the break room, they’ll eat whatever is there just to have a moment away. Some people just freaking love the way it all tastes. There are a million reasons why we make choices we know are bad for us. So expecting kids to act more responsibly in the lunch line than we do as adults is not kind or rational.



The film also brings up that the government subsidizes ingredients that cause obesity. Which I’d like to take a step further by saying that our tax dollars are really those subsidies, meaning we are really, unwillingly and unknowingly, paying for our own problem.


The film also shows that not all fat stores itself on the outside of the body. People eating unhealthy diets can be thin and still be a larger percentage of fat inside that will cause the same chronic diseases as someone who looks obese.

In the same way that what matters is on the inside of us, Fed Up shows that it goes for food too. Calories have been taught to us as math, and that they are equal. If the amount of calories going into your body equal the amount of calories going out, all should be well. At least that is what is usually said. But it is what is on the inside of a calorie that matters. 100 calories of broccoli don’t break down in our bodies the same way 100 calories of brownies do.

fed up scale

I’ve only gone on diets twice in my whole life. Once, for a week in high school, I tried (what I now see as my version of) the Adkins Diet and only ate microwaved cheese and eggs and meat. I had such low energy from this that I couldn’t walk through the halls from class to class. I remember being surprised by this at the time because I thought I was within their guidelines. Why would I think having just microwaved cheese as a third of my diet would be ok?

The other time I dieted was for a random month in college when I learned about calories in vs. calories out. I realized I didn’t have enough calories for my short frame to eat dessert. So I used my dessert-loving brain and figured out a way around it: only eat dessert. At one point, I was just eating whole bags of Reese’s peanut butter cups for dinner. I got bronchitis when my friends all got it and theirs went away with a Z-pak and mine stuck around for months. Because of the wheezing and deep, deep coughing lasting so long, my body got used to the sharp muscle constricting and, after a while, I started projectile vomiting. Which my roommate Hoosty and I thought was hilarious. So we’d laugh, which would get the muscles going again, which in turn would make me wheeze and cough, and projectile vomit.  The cycle continued. College was a special time.

That was how I learned all calories are not created equally. You may already know this. If not, instead of trying your own dessert experiment/ torture, you could read this that is one of my favorite articles: Why Calories Don’t Matter by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD. Or you could watch Fed Up. Or it’s just really easy to understand and you probably already got it before I told those ridiculous dieting stories.

When we’re told that our health comes down to calories eaten matching calories burned but so many other relevant parts of the equation are left out, our health is ignored. That only works if you are eating healthy calories and if you know what “healthy” means. And if you have time to burn an unlimited amount of calories.

fed up french fry exercise

Obesity is a nation-wide, chronic problem that should be met with compassion and education. The kids in this film break my heart. They are trying so hard, but no one is telling them where to put their energy that will be effective. Their parents are lovingly trying to but no one told their parents how to be healthy either. Hopefully they all watched their own movie though. They are a part of something that will bless so many people, and I hope this is a case where the blessings out do indeed equal the blessings coming back to them.

If you don’t have Netflix, learn more about where to find the movie at Here is the Fed Up trailer:


Good Little Gut Monsters: Probiotics, Sanity & Babies

Human digestive systems can’t process plants. Who knew? Apparently health coach Alyson Roux and my friend Simon knew. So maybe you knew too! I just found out when I took a nutrition workshop with Alyson. She taught us that our good gut bacteria (probiotics) actually break down plants for us. What nice little monsters!


15.2.22 TheWholeRuth Spinach Heart

That means that the less nice little monsters we have, the harder it is to process plant foods. I wonder if that’s the reason people have allergies to soybeans, wheat, peanuts, almonds and other plant-foods. I have allergic reactions to those foods and my tummy also doesn’t like it when I eat garbanzo beans (or chickpeas, depending on where you’re reading this). I wonder if this is one of the reasons why nutritionists can minimize people’s allergies. Is it because the nutritionists know how to rebalance the amount of good bacteria in a person’s intestines, which enables the person to digest these foods better?


Also, I have noticed for years that I will fart if I have certain greens or broccoli, but only when I’m eating poorly. I used to think farts were nothing but hilarious things. Now I know they’re my body telling me something important, in a hilarious way. Farting is a sign my body is having trouble processing something I ate. I’ve heard friends say they won’t eat certain healthy foods because those foods give them gas. I always wanted to tell them that if they didn’t eat other unhealthy things, I think their bodies would not get gas from the healthy foods, based on my own experience. But that seemed weird so I never said it. Plus, it’s hard to quickly define “healthy” because it is different for each person and depends on the present strength of his or her immune system.


Here comes the good part. Alyson taught us that garlic and onion feed the good gut bacteria! They are called prebiotics that are fiber/carbohydrates that probiotics eat. You can feed your monsters! There are lots of foods that are prebiotics and they can be cooked or raw, although raw is better. But feeding them is only part of the good part.


The Whole Ruth EAT ME Cupcake March 2014

The other half is: Sugar and vinegar kill them. That sounds like a bad part, but it clarified my fart hunch! When I was eating unhealthy foods that were packed with sugar or refined carbohydrates that break down as sugar, I was killing my good bacteria and it really was harder for me to process nutritious plant-food. Holy crap!

As for vinegar, it is in most of the fermented food I usually buy (tapenade, olives, pickles), so I’m not getting good bacteria from them either. Raw apple cider vinegar is good though, because it’s actually a prebiotic! It’s made from apples that contain the fiber pectin, which is the part of the vinegar that gives it its prebiotic quality. And I eat raw apple cider vinegar almost everyday, so it felt good to learn that it’s a food that feeds my little monsters.

Turns out that the only little monster I’ve been eating, that is a true probiotic with no vinegar or sugar, is raw, fermented sauerkraut from Trader Joes. It’s delicious. I think it’s important to say that the sugar and vinegar truly aren’t needed for a probiotic food to be tasty.


Since we are constantly eating things that destroy probiotics, it makes sense that we have to keep eating more probiotics.

That seems annoying. But when it comes to taking care of our bodies in the most healing way, I’m learning that it’s a life-long, slow task. When I think about healing from food, I don’t think, “I ate once last week. I don’t know why I’m not feeling better yet.” It’s sort of like building a brick house. It’s a repetitive task and you can’t just set down one brick and be done, or lay them all down at once. You have to let the mortar dry before you add another layer. Building a strong food foundation is slow, but the time lets the change settle in. I love eating! And I like that we need to do it regularly. I’m not annoyed about that. So once eating probiotics becomes habitual, I’m sure having another beneficial food to eat won’t be annoying either.

Damage isn’t the only reason we need to keep replenishing. Those little monsters get old just like us and aren’t as strong. So we need to keep adding spry, young fellows to do the heavy lifting.


13.9.27 TheWholeRuth Green Olive Curing

A girl in our workshop was curious how something fermented could even be made with out putting vinegar in it. All I knew was that I was shocked when I had recently looked up how to make sauerkraut and the ingredients were only cabbage, salt, and water! But I didn’t know how that would answer the question of why it worked without using vinegar, which is already fermented, to start the fermentation process. Alyson explained it so simply: Everything has bacteria on it. Letting any plant-food sit in water would make it start to ferment, essentially start to rot. Bacteria would start to grow, but it would be bad bacteria. Adding salt regulates the bacteria growth so that just helpful, healthy bacteria grow instead.

She says it’s good to eat a probiotic each day and explained some more things about probiotics. I thought they were anything raw and fermented. But they need to be lacto-fermented and not yeast-fermented. I just looked up lacto-fermentation and it means anything that is fermented with water and salt! It all makes sense now. Alyson Tip: Beer and kombucha are yeast-fermented, but kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and many other veggies are lacto-fermented.

So if you are in love with curing your own olives like my Dad and I, and like some of our dear Hollywood Orchard friends, you can cure them in salt and water like usual, and flavor them with raw apple cider vinegar if you want your hard-earned, naturally-cultivated, good-little bacteria monsters to stay alive and help you do the same. (Then of course you can add more flavors with whatever you want! Garlic, dill, lemon, whatever fluffs your muffins!)


What about probiotic pills? Can’t I just put that into my biggest face hole? Sure, if you need to have a lot of probiotics in a short period of time. If not, I think getting them from food is better. There are many different strains of probiotics and more are being discovered regularly. I don’t know how many strains of probiotics are in lacto-fermented food vs. pills or how to find out. Also every pill brand has different amounts of strains. Health coach Wendy Myers says that the best probiotic pills have about 3-7 strands of probiotics in them. Any more than that and the pill will be too crammed with different types to have enough of any of the types to be effective.

She says to aim to buy brands with 10 billion CFU for each strain. That’s how many are in the bottle when they are packaged, but it usually gets down to the millions by the time it’s eaten because many die off in the heat and moisture of shipping and the time on the shelf. The goal is to have about 100 billion per milliliter in our colons to be healthy. The average american has four. Four per milliliter. Ha! Math is not my forte, but this one is easy. I know that $100 billion dollars is so very different than $four.

Look for them in a refrigerated area of your nearest health food or hippie grocery store. It’s possible for some for them to not be refrigerated and live if they are in Sporogenes form, but I don’t know what that means. It seems easier, if you are starting out, to only buy refrigerated probiotics. Either way, follow the storage instructions on the package. You’ll want to take good care of the little monsters, they’re alive!


13.6.13 TheWholeRuth Garden Squash Banana Peppers

Why do I think that getting probiotics from food is better? I’m a big believer in eating whole foods the way God made them. If you don’t believe in God, then eating whole foods the way the ground made them. My nutritionist in 2009, Dr. Thropay, taught me that my body more easily understands how to absorb nutrients from whole, organic food than from synthetic material. That makes sense to me because our bodies have had thousands of years of practicing converting food into nutrients. And because I pee neon yellow when I have vitamins and not when I eat food. Also, I think God did a good job making his nutrient packages already. And his taste better. And they’re pretty. And they’re free if you have a garden. And there’s less packaging waste and no capsules made of silicon. I also like the idea that God gave us what we need already, that it’s not such a mystery. He made us smart enough to invent delicious, delicious, deliciously maddening Samoa Girl Scout Cookies. But he also made us smart enough to eventually notice when our inventions hurt us. And to look around and use what heals us.

Those are all just my opinions and idealistic hopes, but receiving nutrients like our forefathers did truly does seem to help in ways we can’t yet completely explain with science. I asked nutritionist Rebecca Brenner, PhD, about this a while back and love her answer. She said that with all of the research humans have done and are continuing to do, we still don’t know exactly how a tomato works. For example, scientists noticed that people who ate more tomatoes had less cancer. So they studied tomatoes and figured out that it’s the lycopene in tomatoes that fights cancer. So they made a lycopene pill. After it was on the market for a while, they also learned that taking too many lycopene pills… wait for it… can give you cancer. Ha! (Cancer is not funny.) Until scientists can recreate everything that happens to you and the tomato as you are eating it, it’s best to choose the food over the pill.

Food benefits us over pills in some ways that we can explain with science too. For random example, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University says that when we chew or chop kale, the enzymes in the kale trigger the hydrolysis of glucosinolates that help prevent cancer by more rapidly removing carcinogens in the body before they can damage DNA and before they can let normal cells change into cancer cells. So whoever has to chop the kale for dinner is getting a lil’ extra sumthin’ sumthin’ just by chopping!

I hope this helps you understand how, right now, the intricacies of food are really impossible to understand.


TheWholeRuth Yogurt

What about yogurt? Or kefir? Are those good probiotics? Miss Roux taught us that about 70% of American adults are allergic to dairy and when looking at only Asian and African American populations, it’s about 90%. I know that probably sounds like an over estimate, but many Americans live with symptoms that aren’t thought of as allergies, but actually can be mild allergic reactions to food: heartburn, eczema, mucus production, wheezing, coughing, acne, PMS, bloating, gas, certain cysts, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), to name a few. So looking for probiotics that are non-dairy is important for a lot of the population. But everyone is different and the most important thing is to be observant about how your body responds to certain foods and honest with yourself about what you notice.

I am allergic to milk protein and can’t even have raw milk. People who have lactose intolerance are allergic to milk sugar and it’s been shown that some of them can process raw milk well. Not cooking the milk keeps the enzymes alive that help baby cows digest the milk and those same enzymes help some humans digest it. Some people make homemade kefir out of raw milk and that has helped their good gut bacteria grow too.

After a traumatic life event, Shane’s sister developed a severe wheat allergy, where she would throw-up if she ate gluten or other food that had even touched gluten. A few years later, she drank homemade kefir for a few months and also became pregnant (not from the kefir, don’t worry) and now she can eat wheat again in small amounts. I think it was the combination of the probiotics and her immune system strengthening from the pregnancy. And her stress level also lessened, which assisted in her healing too.

Another lovely fact Alyson shared is that when our body is in Fight or Flight mode, we can’t absorb as many nutrients.

If you do go for a dairy probiotic, make sure it is in raw form, meaning it hasn’t been pasteurized. When it’s pasteurized, the good bacteria die from the heat and then good bacteria is added back into it. Again, this is fine, but having the most natural, fresh little monsters is more effective. Kefir made at home from kefir grains and raw milk is best because even the kefir in the store is usually pasteurized. Health coach Wendy Myers says, “We used to get beneficial bacteria from raw dairy products delivered straight from the farm — before pasteurization. We also got bacteria from our fruits and vegetables before we decided we had to sanitize them prior to eating. Our obsession with sterilization is wreaking havoc in our guts.”

Kefir can also be made from kefir grains and coconut or rice milk!

Kefir grains are alive so they can’t be manufactured, they have to come from existing kefir grains. Just like us, or puppies. A store can’t build puppies; they have to come from a puppy mama. You can order them online or get them from your healthy hippie friend who already has some and is willing to share. Then your friend will replenish their stash over time as the kefir mamas make more puppies.


13.9.1 TheWholeRuth Hoost Window Shopping Female Body

Probiotic means pro-life. They are bacteria and yeasts that are alive and keep humans healthy. Also, my Word program keeps telling me that probiotic isn’t a word. I think that shows how much, as a society, we are still learning about what probiotics are and why we should care about them. I’d also like to mention that they are found in our bodies naturally, not just in food. That makes me feel less alone inside. Sorry if that joke upsets you.

The National Institutes of Health did a study in 2012 revealing the ratio of human cells to bacteria cells in our bodies. “The human body contains trillions of microorganisms- outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about 1 to 3 percent of the body’s mass (in a 200 pound adult, that’s 2 to 6 pounds of bacteria), but play a vital role in human health.”

In an article by Mary Jo DiLonardo reviewed by David Kiefer, MD, Mary states that probiotics “move food through your gut… Some common conditions they treat are: Irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)… There is also some research to show that they ease the symptoms of non-stomach related problems. For example… skin conditions, like eczema, urinary and vaginal health, oral health and preventing allergies and colds.”

Other than doing all of those amazing things and letting us process plant-foods, which help us fight off cancer, keep our blood thin, keep our cholesterol low, give us good poops, and a slew of nutrients, among so many other positive things, new studies show that good little gut monsters keep us sane.


14.5.22 TheWholeRuth Patti Beachwood Cafe Good Mood

My mom suffers from bi-polar disease and I am pretty good at getting down in the dumps myself, so this idea is especially fascinating to me. In 2013, a UCLA study revealed that women who consumed probiotics on a regular basis demonstrated altered brain function while they were resting and when given emotion-recognition tasks. The study, which appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology, was done at the Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, part of the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, and the Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA. (Shane says that’s his favorite brain-mapping center.)

Our society is very comfortable with the idea that if someone is stressed, they can get a stomach ulcer. But we rarely think of the opposite, of our gut affecting our mental wellbeing. Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine in the digestive diseases division at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine says, “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

“There are studies showing that what we eat can alter the composition and products of the gut flora — in particular, that people with high-vegetable, fiber-based diets have a different composition of their microbiota, or gut environment, than people who eat the more typical Western diet that is high in fat and carbohydrates… Now we know that this has an effect not only on the metabolism but also affects brain function,” said Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine (digestive diseases), physiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study’s senior author.

Another study done at Oxford University that was published in the journal Psychopharmacology in December of 2014 also showed that gut bacteria affect mental health.

One of the tests revealed that participants who had taken prebiotics gave less attention to negative information and more attention to positive information, compared to the participants who received the placebo. This proposes the idea that people consuming probiotics could potentially react more calmly in negative situations, in the same way that people who are on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications react to negative stimuli.


TheWholeRuth InTheMorning

Another intriguing change happened in the group that took prebiotics regarding their cortisol levels. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, a steroid hormone, released in response to physical or emotional stress and in natural cycles that often follow circadian rhythms.

I only knew that it creates belly fat when we’re stressed. But it also helps us start the day by rising its levels in the morning and slowly lowering its levels until it reaches its lowest between 3:00-4:00pm. Maybe it’s my specific cortisol levels that are what make me feel stressed when I wake up and want to take a siesta at siesta time.

When cortisol is released during stressful times, it shuts down a lot of our other bodily functions, majorly important ones, including our reproductive system, our thyroid production and our immune system. Cortisol shuts them down so we can focus on the stress at hand. In caveman times, that was probably great for fleeing from tusked cats. In present day times, we are usually under a lot of stress while simultaneously being sedentary: freaking out about traffic, freaking out on hold on the phone, freaking out because computers make us freak out.

And when we keep ourselves in a state of stress for too long, our helpful cortisol can overproduce making our reproductive system or thyroid glands or immune systems sick. It can also under produce making us lethargic, or produce at the wrong times, which can make us awake at night and sleepy in the day. When the UCLA study prebiotic group woke up in the morning, they had lower cortisol levels in their saliva. For people who are overproducing, this could be a very good thing.

Also, who knew we had stress hormones in our saliva?!?

When I go to acupuncture, the acupuncturists always look at my tongue for a long time. Probably just cause it’s pretty. Ha, no! But I still don’t know why completely. They’ve told me that if it’s quivering, I may be consuming too much caffeine or be anxious. If it has ridges, I may be dehydrated which is making my teeth leave an imprint on my tongue. And if it’s coated, that means something important, but I can’t remember what it is. I wonder if my stress hormones affect the way my tongue looks too.

Or if it affects the way I taste. Not how things taste to me… But how I taste to Shane. Maybe this is why our breath can smell bad in the morning. “You have cortisol breath.”

I wonder other things too…


14.12.4 TheWholeRuth Skinny Mama 2 year bday

First, as a kid and an adult, mama ate like a bird and I wonder if her good gut bacteria levels have always been low, and if that started contributing to her condition decades ago.

Second, when Mama is manic or on medications that make her manic, her blood sugar goes up. It got so high in 2009 that she was one point away from getting diabetes. We took her off that medicine, not just because of the high blood sugar, but because it was letting her stay manic. We also changed her diet and because of the two changes, her blood sugar is healthy now. But it still rises if she gets manic on her own or takes a new medicine that pushes her into mania. Many bi-polar medications are known to give patients diabetes. So here’s my wonder: If her blood sugar gets so high, does that sugar kill her good bacteria? Are we giving her medicine to lift her out of depression that is actually contributing to keeping her there?

Third, Mama’s doctors have said repeatedly that she has a chemical imbalance. The two chemicals they say are imbalanced are serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone, derived from tryptophan. “Of the approximately 40 million brain cells, most are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. This includes brain cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior,” says Collette Bouchez in a WebMD feature. Mom said, “Ha! That’s EVERYTHING.” Also the WebMD feature was reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD. I trust anyone named Brunilda.

The doctors only talk about serotonin being in her brain. And it is, but health coach Wendy Myers says, “95% of [serotonin] is produced in the gut and dependent upon good intestinal health.” Brunilda says it too. Well, she and Collette say, “90% of our serotonin supply is found in the digestive tract and in blood platelets.” I wonder if the probiotics help serotonin thrive and balance, and if that has anything to do with why scientists are discovering that there is a gut-brain connection.

Medical News Today writer, James Macintosh, states that the serotonin used in the brain must be made in the brain. But Joel C. Bornstein, from the Department of Physiology at the University of Melbourne in Australia, says the opposite. In an article for the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, Bornstein states, “There are both neural and mucosal sources of serotonin within the gut.” He also shares that the role of gut serotonin “remains enigmatic and requires further study, especially as this is the source for all circulating serotonin.”

So I don’t have answers to any of those wonders. And as far as I can understand, science is still wondering too.


I have another wonder. For my vegan friends! Since y’all don’t eat anything made from animal products, even honey, can y’all eat probiotics? They’re alive. But they’re already inside you too. And if you don’t feed them, isn’t that like animal cruelty? I’m only sort of kidding. I honestly don’t know which way a vegan-hearted person would lean. But, since know we know there is bacteria on everything, even fruits and veggies, maybe eating probiotics is just fine.


15.5.5 TheWholeRuth Antibiotics

Rachel Champeau, a writer for UCLA Newsroom, is wondering about something else. In response to the UCLA study showing a link between probiotics and brain function, she said, “By demonstrating the brain effects of probiotics, the study also raises the question of whether repeated courses of antibiotics can affect the brain, as some have speculated.”

Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but they also kill good bacteria. Also, my Word program is fine with the word antibiotics. That says a lot. Americans are used to the pattern of taking an antibiotic for a week or so when we’re sick. It’d be so good for us to get used to taking a round of antibiotics with a round of probiotics afterwards. Right now we’re only accustomed to half of the treatment and that treatment leaves us missing our good little monsters!

Also we are over-prescribed antibiotics, which is bad for many reasons, not just killing our good bacteria. I’ll only list one reason so I don’t get off track, but also so it doesn’t look like I’m saying that for fun. Even though that’s not fun to say. One reason: There hasn’t been a new antibiotic discovered for 40 years so while our antibiotics stay the same, the bacteria that make us sick are evolving so that the antibiotics we have are less effective.

Sanjay Gupta, MD, wishes patients were more involved in the decision of whether or not to take antibiotics. He invited patients to play a larger role in their health by asking, “Next time a doctor gives you an antibiotic, ask yourself, do I really need it?” Sometimes, we need them. But I think if people knew that we didn’t need them as often as they are being prescribed, if they knew that repeated exposure to the same antibiotics strengthens bad bacteria, if they knew how beneficial probiotics are and how much work it takes to build them up, they would reach less quickly for antibiotics every time.


15.3.5 TheWholeRuth Mason Jar Water

What if you never take antibiotics? I think it’s relevant to say that antibiotics are in our drinking water supply so there is a possibility that, overtime, they are adding up in our bodies. Harvard Health says, “It’s possible that there’s a cumulative effect on people from even tiny amounts of these and other pharmaceuticals in drinking water, but this hasn’t been proven… In contrast to the uncertainty about human health effects, there’s quite a bit of evidence for pharmaceuticals in the water affecting aquatic life, particularly fish.” I think that since it’s affecting fish, it’s affecting us too, only more slowly.

I also wonder if it hasn’t been proven to affect humans because there have been studies showing it is safe or because there just haven’t been any studies.

Non-organic meat also has antibiotics in it that were given to the animal to keep it from getting sick in its over-crowded, confined living space. Cows are also given antibiotics because instead of being fed grass that they naturally eat, they are fed corn that they can not digest which makes them sick. So even if we aren’t taking antibiotic prescriptions, many of us are still ingesting antibiotics in trace amounts in our water and larger amounts in our meat.


There are other things that destroy beneficial bacteria. Health coach Wendy Myers lists stress, PH imbalance leaning toward acidity, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen, chlorine, overuse of antibiotic herbs, low iron, cancer treatments, alcohol, cigarettes and constipation, because the longer the poo sits in you, the longer the bad bacteria can multiply. But I want to focus on antibiotics just a bit more.


What if you currently don’t take antibiotics, but did a lot as a kid? In her UCLA Newsroom article, Rachel Champeau said, “Antibiotics are used extensively in neonatal intensive care units and in childhood respiratory tract infections, and such suppression of the normal microbiota may have long-term consequences on brain development.”

I was one of those children who took antibiotics every month. And look how my brain developed. I CAN’T STOP WRITING PARAGRAPHS IN THIS THE LONGEST BLOG POST AND I’M OBSESSED WITH LITTLE ANIMALS INSIDE MY TUMMY TALKING TO MY BRAIN.

I was a colicky baby and as a kid, I tested as allergic to milk. I would get ear infections regularly because I always wanted cheese anyway. My cousins would sneak me grated cheese as Nana was making enchiladas. I would trade my bag lunch for the grossest rectangular gray sausage pizza with cheese that seemed like it was made out of an old airplane’s soul. Whatever that means. But I loved it. (Shane just brought up that he always saw kids trade their bag lunch for school lunch, but who were those kids that wanted a bag lunch instead of pizza? “I have this soggy PB&J with carrots, do you want that instead of your delicious pizza?” “You said it’s soggy, right? Sold.”) Also, each month, I would read all five books assigned for the Book It Club and mom would feel bad if I didn’t receive my award: a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. It takes about 30 days to get rid of an ear infection, which is how long it takes to read five more books… So I was on antibiotics often. Maybe this contributed to my allergies later in life.

14.3.29 TheWholeRuth Little Caesars Pizza


Is this why babies on formula have more allergies? Most formulas are made of cow dairy and soy, which are some of the most common allergens (that’s why the back of food labels often say “Made in a facility that processes dairy and soy”). Since the dairy is pasteurized, cooking out the enzymes that help baby cows process their mother’s milk, won’t it be harder for the human baby, who also doesn’t have the right enzymes to digest it? More importantly, what if formula doesn’t have probiotics in it? How will babies drinking formula have good odds to process the dairy and soy (a plant food) with comfort? And how will they start to build up their good gut bacteria to process plant foods later?

Breast milk has powerful probiotics in it that get a baby’s gut bacteria going. Even though we all have probiotics in us naturally, maybe it’s the lack of extra probiotics and prebiotics in most formulas that makes it harder for babies later in life. If so, why don’t we add those to formula? Or, in the same way that we should include probiotic treatment in tandem with antibiotic prescriptions, why don’t doctors tell parents to focus on their baby’s gut health after they get off of the formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that without a balance of good bacteria, the baby’s bad bacteria “could cause infections and inflammation.” Inflammation sounds like a harmless thing, but it makes it harder for their digestive systems to break down food, which can cause vomiting, heartburn, and colic. Inflammation is also the beginning of many diseases. If left as a chronic condition, it can cause heart disease, gum disease, some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and many other problems. I know the baby wouldn’t be a baby anymore by the time those things happened, but I’m just saying inflammation is something that needs more than ice.

The good news is… Drum rrrrrrrollllllll….. it turns out that there are many baby formulas with probiotics in them! And some companies make probiotics that can be added to formula. Yay! I just didn’t know that as I started writing this. And for us adult-babies, after all this, it seems like there are many probiotic options out there for us too! Yay, everybaby!

14.3.7 TheWholeRuth Bright Baby


I feel the sauerkraut kicking in. I feel very mentally good and calm about all of this. I’m going to stop writing all of the paragraphs now. Instead, I’ll go sanely talk to God, or to the ground, and say “Thank you for my good little monsters.”



Mary Jo DiLonardo, reviewed by David Kiefer, MD. “What are Probiotics?” December 24, 2014. WebMD. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Alexander, Rhonda, MS, MA, CFT. “Is Apple Cider Vinegar a Probiotic?” Live Strong. Dec 18, 2013. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Myers, Wendy. “Probiotics- The Foundation of Health.” Live to 110. February 9, 2015. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Myhill, Sarah, MB, BS. “Probiotics – we should all be taking these all the time and double the dose following antibiotics and gastroenteritis” Last modified on 5 March 2015, at 14:02. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Madden, Michelle. “Are You Pro-Life” The Sweet Beet. December 15, 2010. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Probiotics & the Brain:

Champeau, Rachel. Changing Gut Bacteria Through Diet Affects Brain Function, UCLA Study Shows. May 28, 2013. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Probiotics in Baby Formula:

American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Copyright 2009, Updated July, 9, 2014. Retrieved March 5 2015 from


Myers, Wendy. “Probiotics- The Foundation of Health.” Live to 110. February 9, 2015. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Bouchez, Collette reviewed by Nazario, Brunilda, MD. “Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers” Web MD. October 12, 2011. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

serotonin. (n.d.) Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. (2003). Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Bornstein, Joel. “Serotonin in the Gut: What Does It Do?” PubMed Central at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine. February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Macintosh, James. “What is serotonin? What does serotonin do?” Medical News Today. February 12, 2015. Retrieved March 5 2015 from


Bennington, Vanessa, NP. “The Ups and Downs of Cortisol: What You Need to Know” Breaking Muscle. Retrieved March 5 2015 from


Nordqvist, Christian. “What is Inflammation? What Causes Inflammation?” Medical News Today. February 12, 2015. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Antibiotics in Water:

Curfman, Gregory, MD, Editor in Chief. “Drugs in the Water” Harvard Health Publications. June 1, 2011. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Antibiotics in Meat:

Pollan, Michael. PBS’s Frontline Modern Meat Interview: Michael Pollan.

Environmental Working Group. Decoding Meat + Dairy Labels. 2011.

Cruciferous Vegetables Fight Cancer:

Hidgon, Jane, Ph.D., “Cruciferous Vegetables” Linus Pauling Institute
Oregon State University. July 2005. Updated December 2008 by
Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D. Reviewed December 2008 by David E. Williams, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator, Linus Pauling Institute
Professor, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology
Oregon State University. Retrieved March 5 2015 from

Personal Interviews:

Roux, Alyson, Certified Health Coach. Nutrition workshop. February 15, 2015.

Thropay, Adam D., DC. Nutrition appointment. 2009.

Brenner, Rebecca, Ph.D. Phone conversation. 2009.