A CrossFitter goes to 10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat!

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Back in February 2015 I went on my second 10-Day silent meditation retreat.  To get a general sense of what a silent meditation is read this first.

The retreat center in Joshua Tree opened its doors in 2011 so it’s practically brand new. As an ‘old student’, meaning I had already completed a 10-day retreat in the past, I got a dorm room all to myself. The dorms were comfortable and clean. I even had my own bathroom.

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One of the rules (and there are several) is to not bring outside food with you to the Center.  All meals are vegetarian and buffet style.  I was really worried that I wouldn’t get all the protein I needed to make my #gainz so I stashed protein powder, my Blender Bottle, and a couple of protein bars in my suitcase.

Breakfast is mostly carbs like fruit, bread, oatmeal, and stewed prunes. I toasted Ezekiel bread and topped with 1-2 TB of peanut butter and sunflower seeds OR butter and a layer of nutritional yeast.

Lunch is the best meal of the day!  Some items in the lunch buffet include Moroccan tagine, fried rice, marinated tofu, daal, rice, steamed veggies, and a legit salad bar.  Dinner is fruit and tea.  I drank all sorts of teas like chamomile (to calm the nerves and aid in digestion), peppermint and ginger (to prevent gas), green tea (slightly increases body temperature which increases metabolism), and a new tea I discovered called Bengal Spice.  The name says it all.

I lost three pounds (probably all water) within the first two days.  How did I know that?  I brought my scale with me.  I hid it underneath my bed and would weigh myself every morning before taking my first sip of water.

Let’s move on to technology.  No cell phones.  They have to be locked up in a closet by a staff member before the retreat begins.  I learned that you cannot be forced to give up your phone, so I kept mine in my room on silent.  Yes, I checked it.  Everyday.  Multiple times a day.  I had just started using an app called MyFitnessPal.  It tracks your meals and calories, and I was diligent/obsessed with getting my macronutrient ratio of 40% fats to 35% protein to 25% carbohydrates dialed in.  While there is a cornucopia of carbohydrates offered, you have to hunt for the healthy fats and protein.  Even though I enjoyed their marinated tofu, which kind of reminds me of eating weak ass mini steaks, I tried to stay away from soy in general.  I also checked my email often.  I sheepishly admit that I watched a ‘Ballet Beautiful’ workout on YouTube….a couple of times, listened to a Sam Harris podcast, took some photos, and sent some texts.

Walking is the only approved exercise.  The Center is even weird about yoga because they “do not currently have an approved facility for a yoga practice,” although yoga is considered compatible with Vipassana otherwise.  The Center at Joshua Tree is fortunate enough to have a walking path that is made out of rocks and sand and is about a quarter mile in length.  I went into business mode after lunch and would chalk up several laps on the walking path.  It started as a compulsion to get my cardio in every day.  After several days of that I chilled the fuck out and slowed down as there was, “Nothing to do, nowhere to go.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

With that said, I also did squats, sit-ups, push-ups, wall walks, and Ballet Beautiful (of course), when in the privacy of my own room.

Does sitting up tall with an erect spine, relaxed shoulders and slightly engaged core for hours and hours count towards exercise?  Yes, it is an exercise of the mind – possibly the hardest exercise of them all.

I definitely had an internal battle going on during this retreat.  I was defiant right from the start.  I adamantly refused to volunteer to ring the 4:00 AM ‘wake-up bell’ every morning.  I snuck in my own food and checked my phone often.  I exercised when I was supposed to be meditating.  I masturbated furiously every night in an attempt to tire myself out enough to fall asleep.  One night while I was in bed my body thrashed from side to side for what seemed like hours.  I was literally having full body spasms.  They were freaky as hell!  Ironically, my teacher spoke about this very thing the next day during the daily discourse.  I meditated when I wanted to meditate, which was about five to six hours a day.  When I sat, I sat with intention.  My intention was to let everything go once my ass made contact with my meditation cushion. I focused on turning off my internal chatter/judgements and being completely present.
Other key points to consider:

It’s so dry during the day that you’ll want to pack extra lotion, face moisturizer, and chapstick.

Bring shower shoes in case you have to share a bathroom.

Turn in your damn phone to the staff at the start of the retreat.  Just do it.  If there is a true emergency then make sure to give the Center’s phone number to your emergency contact.

If you don’t have regular ‘movements’, then consider not eating all the kale, broccoli, cauliflower, chick peas, and beans.  You’re going to be sitting for many hours in the quietest meditation hall ever with at least 80 other humans.  We hear and smell everything and we know who you are.

Dress appropriately.  You have to cover your legs past your knees and your arms past your shoulders.  No leggings or tights – Leave the Lululemon at home (unless it’s loose fitting and not revealing). Check the forecast and wear white or light colors during the summer and always bring layers.  It could be super hot or super cold outside on the same day. The temperature in the meditation hall fluctuates, so bring a lightweight, thin scarf to drape over your head.  This will give you a little more privacy and keep your head at the perfect temperature.  These conditions will make it that much easier for you to get in the zone.

Bring flip flops or sandals – you want to have a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

Bring a meditation cushion/zafu and practice on it for a few days at home before you start your retreat.

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Someone built a meditation throne.

I don’t want to reveal too much more as we’ve arrived at the actual exciting part:  the meditation.  That is for you to experience.  Now that I’ve given you the low down on what to expect at the Center you know that this is totally doable and even enticing.  It is up to you to show up, shut up, and go through a very complex, delightful, maddening, mind opening experience that is your own.  I would love to hear what you discover!

 

 

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10-Day Vipassana Silent Meditation in Joshua Tree, California

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It had only been two weeks since I came back from the Amazonian jungle.  My first week home was spent recovering from traveler’s diarrhea, and with only one week left, I had secretly hoped that I would book a commercial or modeling job to get out of going to this Vipassana retreat.  I was mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  Under the circumstances, the thought of meditating in absolute silence for 10 days without being allowed to read, write, exercise, do yoga, listen to music, use my phone, use the internet, take photos, take drugs, or drink alcohol was unappealing.  Thank goodness I didn’t let that scare me off because it was my most profound experience of 2013.

I didn’t know a single soul at this retreat so I was essentially surrounded by strangers with at least one thing in common:  We all wanted to practice Vipassana.  I thought that the silence would drive me to insanity but instead it was my sanctuary.  All of the societal pressures to engage in conversation and make eye contact were forbidden.  This was surprisingly refreshing and relaxing.  I savored every moment of it.

Here’s the daily schedule:

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room–Lights out

The only required activities were the three daily group sits. Based on this schedule one could meditate anywhere from 3 to 11+ hours per day.  I averaged about five and a half hours.  I had experience in different styles of meditation, but I hadn’t seriously meditated in a long time.  Every time I tried to practice in the privacy of my room, I dozed off right away.  I made the most achievements with my meditation practice when I joined my fellow meditators in the group hall.

Now, scroll back up to the first photo in this post. Take a look at the left side of the picture.  See that strange thing hanging on the wall?  I started creating that on Day 5 of my silent meditation retreat.  That was the day I began acting a little bit kooky out of sheer boredom.  On the morning of Day 5 I felt a strong urge to break out of my monotonous routine.  At this point I was wearing my dark purple, fleece robe all the time.  I practically lived in that thing.  That morning I decided to style my hair into two braided pigtails using facial tissue as ribbons in the hopes that I would look like Pocahontas, but instead I looked more like a mental patient. I was fascinated by the possibilities of tissue.  I had rummaged through everything in my toiletries bag looking for more art supplies. Bingo!  I had found a pocket-sized sewing kit and an unusually large number of hair ties.  I scavenged for the perfect dead branch from outside.  This was the final outcome of my project:

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I experienced some of the most excruciating pain of my life while I was there.  I initially blamed the throbbing pain in my left shoulder-blade on a crappy bed I had slept on while I was in the Amazon.  To my surprise, I discovered that most of my misery was coming from my mind.  I only fed the fuel of my pain by blaming it on something outside myself.  It wasn’t until the second day that I was taught how to not only neutralize but eliminate my suffering.  It wasn’t easy.  I almost screamed in agony in a room of 60 meditators at one point.  As I developed my practice for eliminating my physical pain, I went through waves of  burning discomfort and solace. By Day 6, I had considerably reduced my pain and by Day 10, I was pain-free.

I had heard of cases where people experienced such anger that they wanted to kill their teacher.  I even knew of one person who had to leave a Vipassana retreat early, because she had a mental breakdown.  And then I met a woman who had been going to retreats consistently  three times a year for nine years.  She spoke to me with the enthusiasm of an excited child on Christmas morning.  Another friend couldn’t put into words how much Vipassana had changed his life for the better.  My experience was a positive one.  This has been by far the most effective form of meditation I have ever practiced.  Vipassana not only brought harmony and equanimity into my life it also uprooted some of my suffering.  It did all of this without any religious ties or blind faith because it is based on logic, reason, and science.

My journey will look, feel, and ultimately be very different from yours should you decide to experience it for yourself, and I recommend that you do.  It isn’t about comparing, judging, or trying to make your experience look a certain way; it is about being present, non-judgmental, compassionate, and patient.   It has been one of the most profound and dare I say enlightening experiences I have ever had.

Can you believe that Vipassana retreats operate on a donation-only basis?  Believe it.  Meals, lodging, accommodations, and teachings are all free.  Donations should be based on your means and volition.  10-Day Courses run all year round and fill up quickly, so try to sign up several months in advance.

To learn more about Vipassana meditation visit their website:  http://www.dhamma.org/

To learn more about the Southern California Vipassana Center in Joshua Tree visit their website:  http://www.vaddhana.dhamma.org/

Team Cracker Barrel: The Ultimate Abo Experience with Cody Lundin

Photos by Dean Bradshaw www.deanbradshaw.com

Smooth, fist-sized stones work very well as a toilet paper substitute.  I would know because I had to wipe my ass with stones for nine days.  Avoid the jagged stones or learn the hard way.  If you use rocks smaller than your fist you may get poo on your hand.  Take off your underwear and pants completely before pooping in the desert.  You may accidentally get crap on your clothes and that’s just embarrassing.  Not that I would know.  I’m just sayin’.

This was one of my first lessons in my primitive living skills course.  My instructors:  Mark Dorsten, Director of Field Operations & Logistics at Aboriginal Living Skills School, and Cody Lundin, Founder & Main Instructor of Aboriginal Living Skills School, and star of the Discovery Channel TV show, Dual Survival.  The other tribe members:  10 men.  I was the only woman.  Most of them were from the South.  Several of them had a military background or a military mentality at the very least.  I was raised by a single father in the Marine Corp so I felt right at home.  What I wasn’t prepared for was all the farting.

In late September 2013 my husband, Dean, and I drove to Prescott, Arizona to partake in a primitive living skills course called The Ultimate Abo.  No cell phones; no electronic devices allowed.  We spent the first six days making all of the things we would need to survive the last three days of the course.  We made bow drill sets, which we would used to make our own fire.  We used hot embers to make bowls; cottonwood to carve spoons; notched willow branches and parachute cord to construct our packframes.  We cut, dried, and tied cattail together to make mattress pads.  We spent an entire day weaving several feet of jute which we would later use as straps for our packframe, and for some of us, a canteen strap as well.  We cleaned and carved gourds to make our own canteen complete with cork.  We learned how to process the inner fibers of branches to make cordage which would serve multiple purposes including the making of a dead-fall trap.  We were expected to hunt, gather, and forage for our own food on the last three days.  We ate cattail, dandelion greens, parasitic oak; and went clamming and grass hopper hunting.  With the help of another tribe member, I caught and ate a mouse!

One of the most important things I learned was how to properly hold and use a knife.  It’s incredible how much pleasure one can derive from making things using only a knife and some branches.  My biggest victory was making fire.  I was just about to give up because everyone else in my group had successfully made fire with their bow drill sets and tinder bundles.  I struggled.  I found it near impossible to use my bow drill set, because I wasn’t strong enough to get my spindle spinning…or so I thought.  It wasn’t until the fifth day when one of the other tribe members noticed that my cordage was tied rather tight on my bow.  He adjusted the tension and I gave it another go.  Booyah!  I was creating smoke in less than a minute and soon after that I had a fat ember in my tinder bundle.  I carefully and steadily blew until I had a flame.  I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I started to shake and cry, and as a result I blew out my flame.  Quickly, I regained my focus and produced another flame.  I had made fire.

This was my favorite trip of the year.  It helped me achieve my goals of being more self-sufficient and independent.  The camaraderie of our tribe, even if only for 9 days, was so nourishing.  We were a team.  We depended on each other to work and function as one unit.  We had to share in all of the responsibilities from fetching water to cooking meals to gathering firewood.  We all had different strengths and weaknesses so every one of us was a valuable asset to the group.  This experience brought my husband and I closer together, because it brought out the very best in us.

At night, around the campfire we didn’t talk about personal stories, hopes, dreams, or goals.  We talked about food.  The Southerners of our group started talking about Cracker Barrel and it didn’t stop until well after the trip was over.  If we had turned it into a drinking game and took a swig every time someone said the name Cracker Barrel we would all be dead from alcohol poisoning.  But thankfully, we did not.  And on the evening of the ninth day, our tribe went to the local Cracker Barrel and ordered every breakfast item, buttery biscuits, and Chicken n’ Dumplins.

Sign up for the course here:  http://www.codylundin.com

Learn about Cody’s show:  http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/dual-survival

Watch the first two seasons on Netflix:  http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Dual_Survival/70211488?locale=en-US&noredir=true

Vegans beware.  Dead mouse photo included.

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Book Review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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Michael Pollan Photo by Alia Malley, Beyoncé Photo owned by Beyoncé Knowles, http://www.beyonce.com

I would rather meet Michael Pollan than Beyoncé (and I really, really like Beyoncé!).  I’m a Clinical Nutritionist and a singer, and I happen to find Mr. Pollan a hell of a lot more fascinating.  I think in order to develop our singing, dancing, and other artistic capabilities we need to have a really strong and solid constitution.  My mantra is healthy body, healthy mind.  Living healthy can help us reach our highest potential.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a DENSE book.  When I say ‘dense’ I mean that it is chock-full of vital information.  You can’t read this book with half a mind.  You’ve got to be on your game – A clean, dry sponge ready to soak in the knowledge.  I had to prepare by having jasmine green tea before I picked it up.  At times it felt like I was reading a textbook and that’s OK, because I found the information to be so valuable.  I was determined to get through it.  I had several stretches where I let the cover collect a thin layer of dust, but it never left my bedside.  I have no shame in saying that it took me six months of on-again, off-again procrastination and force-fed reading to finish this sucker.  It reminded me a lot of being in school where sometimes the reading isn’t particularly fun or easy, but after it’s done I’ll be smarter (hopefully).

I initially thought that this book was going to promote a vegetarian diet, and explain why eating animals is unhealthy and bad.  Not at all.  In fact, I feel more comfortable eating meat now.  This quote in particular really impacted me.

“The farmer would point out to the vegan that even she has a “serious clash of interests” with other animals.  The grain that the vegan eats is harvested with a combine that shreds field mice, while the farmer’s tractor wheel crushes woodchucks in their burrows and his pesticides drop songbirds from the sky; after harvest whatever animals that would eat our crops we exterminate.  Killing animals is probably unavoidable no matter what we choose to eat.  If America was suddenly to adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, it isn’t at all clear that the total number of animals killed each year would necessarily decline, since to feed everyone animal pasture and rangeland would have to give way to more intensively cultivated row crops.  If our goal is to kill as few animals as possible people should probably try to eat the largest possible animal that can live on the least cultivated land:  grass-finished steaks for everyone.” p. 326

This book will raise your level of awareness.  It will get you thinking about your food differently because a lot of times in our culture, American culture, we eat our food mindlessly.  We eat while we’re driving our car.  We eat while we’re browsing the web.  We eat while we’re watching Ryan Gosling movies.  I’m not berating anyone for doing that.  I understand.  I’ve been there and I’m still there, but after reading this book I’ve definitely gained a new awareness of everything involved in the food that I choose to eat.  I feel like that’s super important.

“Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

Here are more of my favorite quotes from the book to whet your appetite:

“We’ve come to think of “corn-fed” as some kind of old-fashioned virtue, which it may well be when you’re referring to Midwestern children, but feeding large quantities of corn to cows for the greater part of their lives is a practice neither particularly old nor virtuous…Yet this corn-fed meat is demonstrably less healthy for us, since it contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of animals fed grass.”  p. 75

“Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese.” p. 102

“Researchers have found that people (and animals) presented with large portions will eat up to 30 percent more than they would otherwise.  Human appetite, it turns out, is surprisingly elastic, which makes excellent evolutionary sense:  It behooved our hunter-gatherer ancestors to feast whenever the opportunity presented itself, allowing them to build up reserves of fat against future famine.  Obesity researchers call this trait the “thrifty gene.”  And while the gene represents a useful adaptation in an environment of food scarcity and unpredictability, it’s a disaster in an environment of fast-food abundance, when the opportunity to feast presents itself 24/7.  Our bodies are storing reserves of fat against a famine that never comes.”  p. 106

“Perhaps the perfect meal is one that’s been fully paid for, that leaves no debt outstanding.  This is almost impossible ever to do, which is why I said there was nothing very realistic or applicable about this meal [a meal that consisted of only food that was foraged, hunted, and grown by the author and his friends].  But as a sometimes thing, as a kind of ritual, a meal that is eaten in full consciousness of what it took to make it is worth preparing every now and again, if only as a way to remind us of the true costs of the things we take for granted.” p. 410

Kale Soup Recipe (Skinny Soup)

Ingredients for Kale Soup

Servings:  6 servings

Prep Time:   30 minutes

Total Time:  50 minutes

My brother-from-another-mother, Charles Thi, and I created this recipe.  We call it Kale Soup.  We’ve made it many, many times and have taste tested it to the point where I can confidently say we have reached perfection.  This recipe includes chicken broth and meat.  If you want to go strictly veggie then omit the chicken meat; increase the amount of mushrooms (for more girth and protein), and swap the chicken broth for either organic vegetable or mushroom broth.  This recipe is low in carbs and rich in protein and veggies – You’re going to have a really hard time getting fat from this soup!  I always feel light and happy after I eat it – not sluggish or bloated.  This soup is great when it’s chilly outside, or when you feel a bit under the weather.

What You Will Need

6 cups chicken broth (1 1/2 boxes of organic, free range chicken broth, 32 oz. box)

1 organic medium-sized yellow onion, chopped

2 organic medium-sized heirloom tomatoes, chopped

2 organic Yukon Gold OR 2 purple potatoes OR 1 large Russett potato, chopped

1 organic head of kale (de-stemmed), chopped or torn into small pieces by hand

2 organic carrots, chopped

1 package (3.5 oz) shitake mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chicken breast from rotisserie chicken (roughly ½ Sprouts brand rotisserie chicken), cubed or shredded

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast

3 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

½ teaspoon cayenne, ground

1 large pot (3.5 qt. pot will hold all of the ingredients but a slightly larger pot will make it easier for stirring)

Directions

1.  Fill pot with chicken broth and heat on stove on low setting.  Place lid on pot.

2.  Wash and slice shiitake mushrooms and add to pot.  Cover with lid.

3.  Increase heat to low-medium setting so that the broth is at a slight boil.

3.  Wash and chop potatoes and carrots and add to pot.  Cover with lid.

4.  Continue preparing and adding ingredients to pot in this order: Onions, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, sea salt, ground pepper, cayenne, chicken meat, and kale.  I like to pull the green, leafy part from the thick stem of the kale and tear it up into pieces by hand.  Uncover soup.

5.  Let kale cook for 5 minutes or so and then test a piece of potato.  If it is soft, then the soup is ready.  If it is still a little hard, then continue to cook soup for an additional 5 minutes then taste potato again.

6.  Enjoy!  Eat as many bowls as you like – I will have 2 big bowls and feel completely guilt-free, because you’re filling up on water, lean protein, fiber rich mushrooms, and nutritious veggies.

Bon appétit!

Kale Soup

Cat’s Superfood Power Smoothie!

The Superfood Power Smoothie is excellent for the digestive system.  It’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, and protein; high in antioxidants, and flavored with green-tasting goodness.  This smoothie is not for the faint of heart – it has spirulina, blue-green algae, chlorella, wheat grass, and purple dulse seaweed.  It tastes “healthy” because it is healthy.  I love starting my morning off with one of these deliciously creamy, energizing smoothies.  I hope you do, too!

  • 8 oz. of organic vanilla almond milk
  • 2 medium sized bananas
  • 2 heaping tbsp. of psyllium husks
  • 2 scoops (16 grams) Amazing Grass Green Superfood Chocolate Drink Powder
  • 4 tbsp. (30 grams) Dr. Schulze’s Super Food Plus powder
  • 2 scoops (60 grams) MRM Low Carb Protein, Creamy Chocolate flavor
  • 4 scoops (4 grams) MRM L-Glutamine 325
  • 2 tbsp. bee pollen whole granules (Y.S. Eco Bee Farms – High quality brand)
  • 2 Sambazon Original Smoothie Packs
  • 9-12 ice cubes

Put all ingredients into blender or Vitamix and blend well.  Done.

This recipe makes about 3 large smoothies.

Increase Your Energy with Bee Pollen!

Want a little more energy?  Try adding some bee pollen to your smoothie.  The next time you order a  smoothie from some smoothie joint or juice bar ask them to add bee pollen.   It may be an additional charge and I suggest you pay the .50 cents to $1.00 extra if you’re looking to increase your energy in a healthy way.  Better yet, you can buy a container of bee pollen from the health food store if you’re serious about adding it to your diet.  Look for it in the refrigerated section.  Bee pollen is perishable and has a very natural, fresh yogurt-like smell.  Always store it in an air-tight container or glass jar, and keep it refrigerated otherwise it could get moldy.

I make my own delicious smoothies at home using my Vita-Mix (a blender works, too).  I’ll typically add 1 tablespoon of bee pollen granules to my smoothie mix.  Bee pollen has a sort of sweet, chalky taste and can be somewhat pungent if eaten alone although some describe the taste to be bland or innocuous.  I guess it depends on your taste buds, however, fresh bee pollen should not have a bitter taste.  I suggest adding it to a smoothie or sprinkling it onto salads (it goes well with heartier salads that have couscous, quinoa, or tabbouleh in them).  Bee pollen contains a lot of enzymes, so it should not be heated.

Bee pollen can help increase your energy and your libido.  Keep reading to discover all of bee pollen’s functions, proper dosage and delivery, and safety concerns.  Even if you are allergic to bee stings, you may still be able to take bee pollen.  Refer to the section entitled “Dosage and Delivery.”  Anyone with a suspected sensitivity to bee pollen should consult a nutritionist before taking.

Functions

  • Accelerates return to normal heart rate after exercise
  • Beneficial for growing children, seniors, rehabilitation after surgery, for those in an emaciated, thin and weakened state
  • Beneficial part of a libido enhancing program for men or women
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Counteracts a number of environmental toxins (two amino acids, L-Cysteine and L-Methionine, that are in bee pollen, contain sulphur.  This stimulates glutathione synthesis, which is our internally produced antioxidant)
  • Decreases catabolic (tearing down) phase during and after physical effort; can work longer without losing lean muscle mass (would also help with fasting or low calorie diets to protect against loss of muscle)
  • Decreases lipid peroxidation.  Cell walls are mainly fat; free radicals can oxidize holes in the cell membranes.
  • Decreases oxidation of LDL – When LDL oxidizes, it forms plaques in blood vessels
  • Decreases the usual side effects of radiotherapy (a dose of 20 grams or about 7/8 oz, 3 times a day was given).  It corrects radiation sickness after massive abdominal x-rays.  Bee pollen prevents the breakdown of body proteins (which then results in increased production of histamines) when x-rays are taken
  • Enhances and strengthens immunity
  • Exposure to radiation therapy is the greatest physical and emotional stressor to the immune system.  Bee pollen has antioxidants that scavenge free radicals caused by radiation treatment
  • Good for low blood sugar or hypoglycemia (with licorice)
  • Good source of easily absorbed protein
  • Has a bio-stimulating effect, especially endocrine glands, liver, kidneys and adrenals; with the endocrine glands functioning better, then you also see better libido and enhanced immunity
  • Has a slight metabolism enhancing effect (when you build lean muscle, metabolism increases)
  • Has anti-inflammatory activity (from quercitin)
  • Helps normalize hematocrit, which is important during pregnancy and for anemia
  • Helps return breathing to normal after exercise
  • Helps stop metastasis of cancer and growth of tumors
  • Helps with inflamed and/or infected prostate, benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH); it is not as good as Saw Palmetto, but can be part of protocol for BPH (in one study, 55% had significant improvement with bee pollen)
  • If you want to diminish your sensitivity to airborne pollens, you must begin using bee pollen 2-3 months before allergy season begins
  • Improves the ascorbate system which is the ability of the adrenals to store Vitamin C and make it available during times of stress
  • In one study, improved kidney/renal panel
  • Increases energy, vitality and endurance
  • Increases red blood cell production
  • Increases white blood cells
  • Moderate liver protection against ethionine, carbon tetrachloride (strongest carcinogen known) and chemical solvents (other substances, like milk thistle, are better)
  • Physical Performance:  Increases rate of recovery.  Improves second and subsequent performances (2 yr study done with hurdlers at Stanford by Dr. Jackson; Bee Pollen was given before and between events)
  • Pollen has a weak anabolic effect – Helps build new tissue; but it does not build muscle mass like creatinine; supports tissue growth and body weight (1-3 lbs); puts on a little bit of lean mass
  • Produces a moderate immuno-regulatory effect
  • Regulates blood proteins which helps with immune response
  • Regulates production of antibodies or immunoglobulins, IgG and IgM; gammaglobulin shots given when someone is exposed to hepatitis – Bee pollen is a weak immunoglobulin enhancer
  • Stimulates interferon production
  • Stimulates the endocrine system
  • Strengthens and protects epithelial tissue in the body
  • Studies were done on hens:  Showed an increase in reproductive ability; increased egg-laying.  It increased levels of hormones.  It can have a positive effect on LH (lutenizing hormone) and estriol estrogen (safest estrogen); also, on various adrenal sterols
  • Tends to regulate blood pressure:  In high amounts, it decreases blood pressure
  • Two studies were done at Stanford University using oral administration of bee pollen.  The results showed a very significant improvement in people with hayfever and asthma.  Why exactly, we are not sure – It could be because it is nutrient dense and energetic.  It is also rich in quercetin, which inhibits the release of histamine and helps to decrease allergic response.  It is the strongest anti-inflammatory and allergy reducing bioflavonoid
    • Hayfever:  There was a 100% improvement in 17.8% of the participants; 75% improvement in 34.25%; and, 50% improvement in 20.5%.  Overall, 73% of the patients averaged 75% improvement
    • Asthma:  Study showed 100% improvement in 1/3 people, 75% improvement in 1/3 of the people and 50% improvement in 11% of the people.  Overall, 78% of the asthma patients averaged 75% improvement
  • Very effective for UTI
  • When taken with meals, it enhances the absorption of other nutrients
  • With radiation treatment, levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, RBC’s, WBC’s, and albumin (blood protein) are decreased.  When someone takes bee pollen when undergoing radiation, there is much less depletion of these substances

Sources of Bee Pollen

Imported bee pollen may have more herbicides; may have been grown in industrial areas and must be fumigated before coming into the United States.  Some people react to this fumigation and they would want to use domestic pollen.

Pollen starts with 13% moisture content.  If it is not dried enough and contains too much moisture, you could get mold growth that is not visible.  Larger, commercial companies have equipment that dries the pollen sufficiently.  These companies also have filters that are used to get out the legs of the bees which are sometimes knocked off in the traps.

If you buy fresh pollen from a local source it is probable that the person would not have efficient drying equipment or filters.  This may result in an inferior quality because of the moisture problem.

Some Reputable Companies:  Montana Naturals or Montana Big Sky; Premier One (Neutraceutical); Beehive Botanicals (Linda Graham)

Dosage and Delivery

It is important to only use good quality bee pollen.  Most effective form is granules.

Bee pollen contains a lot of enzymes, so it should not be heated.

It is generally dried before being marketed.

Bee pollen should be stored in a glass container and kept in the refrigerator most of the time.  It can be kept at room temperature for 4-5 days.  The shelf life for pollen that has been dried is 2-3 years.  The shelf life for fresh pollen is questionable depending on how well it was dried and how it is stored.  Fresh pollen should not taste bitter.

Can be taken on a long-term, on-going basis.  You can take bee pollen on an empty stomach or with meals.

(If allergic to bee stings)  Start with 1-3 granules under the tongue 1-3 times a day.  Increase dosage every 3-4 days.  First to 1/32 tsp (about 4 granules), then to 1/16 tsp, then to 1/8 tsp, then to ¼ tsp.  By the time you get to ¼ tsp, you should be taking this dosage 3 times per day.  After getting to ¼ tsp for dosage, then every 3-4 days increase the dosage by ¼ tsp until you are taking 1 TB, 3 times a day.  Most people start noticing an effect when they get to a dose of 1 tsp, 3 times per day.  It will take about 3 months to build up to 1 TB, 2 times per day.

(If not allergic to bee stings) For prevention, start with ¼ tsp of granules 1-3 times a day with food for enhanced absorption or on an empty stomach.  Every 3 to 4 days increase dosage by 1/4 tsp. until you are taking 1 TB, 3 times a day.  Therapeutic amount is 1 heaping tsp or 1 tablespoon 3 times a day.  Gelatin caps are also available and for preventative purposes, the suggested amount is two capsules 3-4 times daily of 450 mg to 580 mg capsules.  A short-term, therapeutic amount of bee pollen is about 3 times the preventative amount.

When you have built up your dosage to 1 TB, most people experience the effect of feeling energized 45 minutes to 1 and ½ hours after taking the bee pollen.

Don’t take at night before bed.  It might keep you awake because of its energizing effect.

Children:  Take the weight of the child and divide it by the normal weight of the same sex parent.  This will give you the percent of the adult dose that the child can take.  For example, a child that weighed 50 lbs with a 150 lbs same sex parent would take 1/3 of the adult dose.

Safety

You need to gradually increase your dosage of bee pollen.  If a person takes too much for them, it may cause nausea and diarrhea.  This is because the RNA in bee pollen can be irritating to the stomach and colon.  G.I. problems would usually be the result of taking an excessive amount of bee pollen.

Breathing problems after taking bee pollen is usually because it is of very poor quality.

For people that have difficulty with concentrated protein including gout and kidney problems (high purines, creatinine, ammonia), you need to cut back on the dosage or take for a shorter period of time.

For older people, start with a smaller dosage.

Even if you are allergic to bee stings, you can still take bee pollen.

If pregnant or lactating, start with very small dose and work up to 1 to 2 tsp, 3 times per day.  Both bee pollen and royal jelly are great for pregnancy if taken in the appropriate dose.  You don’t want to take too much because it could produce a laxative effect and result in diarrhea.

Miscellaneous Notes

There are over 200 active constituents in bee pollen.  It is 20-25% protein and contains all essential amino acids.  It is 8-15% lecithin.  It contains 56 nutrients including quercitin (a bioflavonoid), “B” vitamins, Vitamin E, carotenoids, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, phosphorus and iron.  It is also very rich in RNA.

While bee pollen contains 56 nutrients considered necessary for health, it has been inaccurately marketed as the most complete and perfect food.  It does not contain chlorophyll and some other nutrients.

There are two kinds of pollen.  Airborne pollen is the kind people react to (called anemophile).  The second kind, called entimophile (“friend of the insect”), relates to insects and bees.  It is heavier and stickier than airborne pollen.  Bee pollen is the pollen that bees gather from stamens of flowers.  This is the most “energetic” part of the plant.

Even with a large therapeutic dose, you are not getting that much of each individual nutrient like protein or calcium.  You are taking less quantity of nutrients, but they may be better absorbed because it is a food source substance.  The effect of bee pollen may be from the “symphony” of all nutrients – Or it may be the “energy” and “magic” of this substance that cannot be measured.

Bee pollen is rapidly and easily absorbed from the stomach directly into the bloodstream.  This is called persorption – Absorption through the esophagus and upper G.I. tract before it hits the small intestine.  In one study, dogs were fed milk cream, which they normally digest very slowly.  Bee pollen was added to the milk cream.  They found that the pollen was in the blood stream, cerebrospinal fluid and urine within two hours (4 hr normal for bloodstream; 6-8 hr normal for CS fluid).

Bee pollen was promoted in the 70’s and 80’s for athletes to increase their endurance and performance.

IV administration is even more effective.

It has a bland, innocuous and slightly sweet taste.