The road to wellness isn't straight, clear, or predictable. It's a path you forge yourself.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stuffed Pumpkin! (Vegan and Gluten-Free!)

Yes, I know it has been FOREVER since I posted on this blog.  I haven't forgotten about it, I've just been really busy.  Anyway, I was making this stuffed pumpkin today and I thought I would share it with you.  I got this from a magazine ages ago, and I have modified it to be gluten-free.   If you are vegan, this is a WAY better-tasting alternative than Tofurkey.  (Trust me.)  Another plus, it makes a beautiful center-piece!

Stuffed Pumpkin (Prep time = 1 hour; cook time = 1 1/2 hours)
Note:  I do all my crumbling and chopping in the food processor.  Saves loads of time!

1 5 lb. pumpkin
1 1/4 cup cooked, brown rice
1 cup crumbled gluten-free sandwich-type bread
1 cup gluten-free corn bread
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 chopped apples
1/4 cup dried cranberries (I use 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries when available.)
1/2 cup chestnuts (Brazil nuts or hazelnuts are good if you can't find chestnuts.)
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup canola oil
1-2 cups veggie broth (I use Imagine Foods "No Chicken Broth")
2 T soy sauce (I use gluten-free Tamari)

1.  Cook rice and cornbread (or cheat like me and get pre-made corn bread)
2.  Wash and dry pumpkin.  Cut off top and scoop out the innards and seeds.  (I like to soak the seeds in salt water for toasting later.)
3.  Preheat oven to 325  degrees farenheit.
4.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the liquids.
5.  Mix in one cup of the broth, the soy sauce, and the oil.  If needed, add up to another cup of broth.  (I usually use 1 1/2 cups of broth.)
 6. Pack mixture into pumpkin.  Bake 1 1/2 hours or until pierced easily with a fork.  (I usually make this a day ahead, refrigerate it overnight, then bake it the next day.)
7.  To serve, scoop out pumpkin flesh along with stuffing.

Serves 8

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Losing weight the baby-friendly way

Okay, so I weighed myself this weekend and I'm back up to 181.5.  Boooo!   At least I'm not back up to my weight of 195, but I don't like the direction I'm going.  (I had gotten down to 165.)  I had been doing so well, but for the past 2 months I've been doing fertility treatments after a year's hiatus from the last time.  Those hormones really mess you up!  I'm positive they had something to do with the weight gain.  :-/

Anyway, the new diet starts tomorrow.  I was going to do the whole low carb thing that worked so well before, but eating a lot of meat is not good for fertility.  SO, here's what I'm going to do:

Eating - 
1.  Eat lots of salads with a lot of mixed veggies.  (Like grape tomatoes, arugula, spinach, radishes, broccoli slaw, etc.)  and dress it with lemon juice and Canola oil.  (Canola oil has omega 3's in it, which olive oil doesn't.)

2.  Put a half cup of beans on the salad for protein.  Beans are supposed to increase fertility and it helps to limit meat.

3.  Only one serving of fruit per day.  (To reduce sugar.)  I will start the morning with my rice-protein powder shake and include blueberries in it.

4.  NO sugar, honey, artificial sweetners, etc.  (Sweets are my big weakness.  It's so much easier to keep the calories down if I just give them up altogether.)

5.  Eat one serving of full-fat dairy per day.  (Amazingly enough, this has been proven to increase fertility.)  I will make my yogurt with whole milk this week.  This way, I won't go for the ice-cream with all the sugar in it.

Work-out - 
1.  Two afternoons per week:  Curves gym (interval training) - 30 minutes

2.  One night per week:  Zumba! - 1 hour - (Gonna check it out for the first time tomorrow.)

3.  One night per week:  Indian Dance - 1.5 hours - (my latest passion!)

I have been bad about working out lately.  It's so hard to feel like working out when the fertility hormones make you feel horrible and bloaty.  My boobs are insanely sore and I feel like a stuffed sausage.  I've decided I don't have PMS, I have PMMS (Permanent Mexican Meal Syndrome).  You feel as if you have eaten a big disgusting Mexican meal.....all the time!  Even when you first wake up and haven't eaten anything.  I'm sick of it!  I'm going to take a break from it for the next few months and try to get my weight and health under control before I undertake IVF.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 6 Fertility Robbers. Beware!

In the book, "Getting Pregnant:  The New Fertility Diet Guide" by Niels H. Lauerson, M.D., Ph.D & Colette Bouchez, they list some foods to avoid if you're trying to get pregnant.  I'm going to list them for you here. 

The Six Fertility Robbers:

1.  Alcohol - (Although I thought alcohol HELPED a lot of women get pregnant.  Not so!)  In a British study, even one glass of beer or wine per day decreased the chances for conception by 50%.

2.  Caffeine - In a Yale study, those who drank more than 3 cups of coffee a day had a 176% rise in infertility in just one year.  Even as little as 1 cup of coffee per day had a 55% higher infertility rate.  (Exception:  green tea.  The caffeine content is lower than coffee and it has other compounds which aid in fertility.)

3.  Peas! - Who knew there is a natural chemical found in peas called m-xylohydroquinone that reduces sperm production by 50% and pregnancy rates by 60%.  They are actually testing this as a potential natural contraceptive!  I hate peas anyway so this is a good reason for me to avoid them.  Hooray!

4.  Diet Soda and Artificial Sweeteners - Is this a surprise?  They're just bad for you.

5.  Sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup - also not surprising!

6.  Food Preservatives - The two mentioned were MSG and BHA.  MSG also goes by other names like hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), autolyzed plant protein (APP), autolyzed yeast, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate.  BHA is found in a lot of baked goods and snack foods.  Read labels and avoid these!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Six Foods that Boost Fertility

I'm currently reading two books about how you can improve your chances of conceiving by changing your diet.  One of these books is called "Getting Pregnant:  The New Fertility Diet Guide" by Niels H. Lauerson, M.D., Ph.D & Colette Bouchez.  (Click here for their website.)  In this book they list foods that can help increase your fertility.  I'm listing them here for you.

The Six Super Fertility Food Boosters:

1.  Wild Organic Blueberries - half a cup per day can help fertility, plus lower cholesteral, fight high blood pressure, and help protect you from cancer.  Remember, what's good for your body is also good for fertility!

2.  Cruciferous Vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, bok choy, etc.  Also good for men's fertility!

3.  Onions and Garlic - also leeks, scallions, chives, etc.  Can help to repair damaged DNA and lowers inflammation.  Can help particularly those women diagnosed with endometriosis or PCOS.

4.  Green Tea - This is another paradox because caffeine is said to decrease fertility.  However, the compound known as EGCG which is found in green tea helps increase the number of eggs available for fertilization.  Effective when combined with IVF.  The book says not to drink more than 7 cups per week though.  (Probably b/c of the caffeine thing.)

5. Nuts!  Almonds, cashews, walnuts, and more - The good fats and antioxidants contained in nuts are why these are good for fertility.   Exception:  Peanuts!  They are BAD for fertility because of the plant estrogens which can affect hormone levels in women and slow down sperm production and motility in men.

6.  Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, and Wheat Germ - I'm gluten-intolerant so I'm going to avoid the wheat germ but I eat pumpkin and sunflower seeds regularly.  Apparently, it's the good fats, vitamin E, zinc, and B6 which make these fertility super foods.

Do any of you know about the fertility diet?  I'm just getting started reading about it.  Eat up and good luck to all!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Fertility Sundae

I am currently reading two books on "The Fertility Diet".  Apparently, there are foods that can help (or prevent) you from becoming pregnant.  Who knows if it actually will make any difference, but I'm willing to try.  (At this point, if someone told me that my fertility would improve if I stood outside and recited the alphabet backwards whilst standing  on one leg by the light of the full moon, I'd totally do it!)  At least it makes me feel like I have control over SOMETHING to do with the whole process.

Most of the information I've come across so far isn't surprising.  Eat more veggies and fruit, stay away from refined carbs and sugars, eat good fats, etc.  BUT - I did come across something that was pleasantly surprising.   The ice-cream paradox! 
Even though saturated fat in general can negatively affect fertility, eating full fat ice-cream increases fertility in women!  It has to be full fat though.  Low fat ice-cream was shown to  be detrimental to fertility.  Both books I have say the same thing so it must be true, right?  Apparently, there was a Nurses Health Study at the Harvard School of Public Health that confirms this.  The following was discovered:
  • The more low-fat dairy products in a woman's diet, the more likely she was to have had trouble getting pregnant.
  • The more full-fat dairy products in a woman's diet, the less likely she was to have had problems getting pregnant.
Crazy, right? Currently, I'm not eating any dairy at all because I feel better when I avoid it.  However, if the potential life of my future baby depends on it.....well, I guess I'll have to make the sacrifice and eat some ice-cream!  I mean, who am I to argue with Science, right?

My book says that only about a half pint of ice-cream per week is advisable.  You don't want to just eat as much ice-cream as you want because that will cause to gain weight and excess weight is BAD for fertility.  SO - once a week, only on the weekends, I'm adding this "Fertility Sundae" to my diet:

1/2 pint of ice-cream (I used vanilla this week)
2 T Chocolate sauce (the polyphenols in chocolate boost fertility)
walnuts (the omega 3 content and fiber make them good for fertility as well)

Yay!  This the best news I've heard all week.  Yum!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stupid 'ol hormones and falling off the wagon

So, I did really well on my grain-free, sugar-free diet last week and lost 2 pounds.  This week, I was terrible and totally fell off the wagon.  (I don't know what I weigh now, but I'm afraid to get on the scales.)  Not to make excuses or anything but this past week I found out that my last IUI didn't work and I've now started a new cycle.  (Fertility stuff for those of you who are fortunate enough to not know what an IUI is.)  I have to inject hormones into my belly every day for 14 days or so of each cycle.  I also am craving carbs like CRAZY.  I don't think this is a coincidence!

I asked my doctor if the fertility hormones cause weight gain and he said, "No.  But they can make you want to eat more and THAT can make you gain weight". it just me or doesn't that mean the hormones make you gain weight?

You know what else?  These stupid 'ol hormones give you nausea and morning sickness.  (Not to mention hot flashes!)  What a mean trick!  It seems like you should have morning sickness and be pregnant OR not have morning sickness and not be pregnant.  To have morning sickness and NOT be pregnant is just plain mean.  I feel like God is laughing at me sometimes.

I think going through fertility is rough because it forces you to face the issue every day.  When I wasn't giving myself a shot everyday and going in to have an ultrasound and my blood tested every 4 days, it was easy to focus on other things and forget about it.  These IUI cycles just kind of shove it in your face and make it hard to ignore.  

Anyway, sorry to be tiresome and to keep harping on about this but it's hard not to.  This is the biggest thing going on in my life.  It's the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep....and all the times in between.  If you're wondering what I'm thinking about when I'm stopped at a red light, it's this!  My hope is that someone else going through infertility might feel better knowing that someone knows what they're going through.  I also hope that this might help those who have never had fertility issues understand those who do. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cleaning the bathroom the healthy way

I don't know about you, but conventional cleaning products make me sick.  (Especially mold-killer bathroom sprays.)  I used to always get an insane headache and have to go lie down after cleaning the bathroom.   No more!  I have found a healthy way to do it with natural cleaners.  Yay!

The book "Clean Home Green Home" by Kim Delaney has really helped me.  It tells you how to make your own cleaning products, not just for the bathroom, but for the whole house!  Today, I'll be sharing with you my new bathroom cleaning method that I learned from this book.

Shower, bath, and sink:
1.  Mix some baking soda with some regular dish soap to make a paste.  (Start with about a handful of baking soda, then add a little dish soap at time while stirring.)  Only make as much as you need because it does not store well.  (It just dries up.) Note: the book says to use "castille soap", which is vegetable-based soap, but I haven't been able to find any.  Dish soap is mild so I use that instead.

2.  Using a microfiber cleaning cloth (like the kind you get at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Target), rub the paste all over the tub, tiles, shower head, faucets, etc.  Use an old toothbrush to get at the hard-to-reach places.  (The baking soda paste will scrub off grime, but is mild enough not to scratch any surfaces.)

3.  Turn on the shower and rinse.  Then, wipe with a another wet microfiber cloth.

4.  In order to shine metal faucets, rub with a dry microfiber cloth.

Note:  I know this sounds like a lot of microfiber cloths, but I only own 3 and I use them every week.  Then, I just chuck 'em in the wash with the towels.  It's better to use washable cloths than endless paper towels.  (...and cheaper in the long run!)

5.  In order to prevent clogs in the drains, boil a kettle-full of water and pour it down the drain.  (Once every 2 weeks or so.)  The boiling water will loosen any fatty soap deposits and help it slide down the drain.  If you already have a clog, don't get drano!  Pour some baking soda and vinegar down the drain.  It will fizz up.  Put a cloth over the drain and let it fizz for 5 minutes or so; then pour the boiling water.  I was amazed at how well this worked!  The best part is that there's no harmful chemicals going down and it won't eat your pipes. 

Natural Mold Killers:
1.  Plain old vinegar.  Just put it in a spray bottle and spray on the area where you want to kill/prevent mold.  It smells a bit funny, but once it dries the smell is totally gone.  Warning:  Do NOT use vinegar on tile grout, marble, or any porous surface!  It will eat into it.

2.  Tea tree oil spray:  Mix 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil (available at Whole Foods or most health food stores).  This is safe to use on tile grout and pretty much any surface.  I spray this mixture all over my shower and tub when I'm done cleaning it.  Then, you just leave it there.  It will kill and prevent mold.  Plus - it smells great!

Shower Curtain:
After each use, draw it across the shower rod.  (close it)  This way, it dries out better and mold won't grow as easily.  Once a week, I spray it down with tea tree oil spray. 

 Okay so this is the only area where I cheat and use a conventional cleaner.  Soft Scrub just works really well and I haven't found a natural product to match it.  I figure, using a little of it once a week isn't so bad.  Plus, it doesn't seem to give me headaches like other cleaners do.
If any of you out there have any natural cleaning tips, I'm all ears.  Happy (and healthy) cleaning! 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Diet and Progress

I stopped posting my menus b/c I don't think anyone is all that interested.  You get an idea of the things one eats on a no-grain, no-sugar diet, right?  Basically, I'll eat the same thing this week with minor variations.  (Like I'll have lamb instead of steak and this week's soup is lentil instead of chicken.)  I posted 5 days worth of meals if anyone wants to try this diet.

When I weighed myself at the gym on Saturday and my weight was 176.  (Down from 178.)  Okay, so 2 pounds isn't much but I'll take it!  Plus, I did cave in and eat some rice cakes.  This coming week, I'll be more careful about grains and I'm sure the weight will come off more quickly. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

No-grain, no-sugar diet - Day 5

What I ate -

shake (with rice protein, ground flax seeds, almond butter, cocoa nibs, and soymilk)

Mid-morning snack:
sunflower seeds
green tea

Greek chicken (take-out)
mustard greens
sauteed eggplant

Afternoon Snack:

omlet (with kalamata olives, tomatoes, green peppers, nitrate-free pepperoni)
salad (with 1 slice roast beef, spinch, arugula, olive oil, and lime juice)

How I felt -
Much better than yesterday.  Kinda blah though. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No-grain, no-sugar diet - Day 4

What I ate -

Breakfast (4 pts):
1 egg, fried in olive oil
Baked butternut squash w/cinnamon (I just can't seem to get enough of this breakfast!)

Mid-morning snack (2 pts):
4 parsley lemon-pepper shrimp

Lunch (5 pts):
Homemade chicken soup

Afternoon snack:

Supper (8 pts):
2 rice cakes
almond butter
green tea

Total pts = 19

How I felt -
Terrible! Had a headache all day that turned into a migraine in the late afternoon.  Couldn't eat much b/c of the accompanying nausea.  I gave in and had the rice cakes b/c it was the only thing I could bring myself to eat.  Will get back to the no grains thing tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No-grain, no-sugar diet - Day 3

What I ate:

Breakfast  (4 pts.):
1 egg, fried in olive oil
baked butternut squash with cinnamon
(It was so good yesterday that I had to have it again.)

Mid-morning snack (3 pts.):
handful of pumpkin seeds

Lunch (5 pts.):
salad with spinach, arugula, 2 slices of roast beef, olives, palm hearts, roasted red pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice

Afternoon Snack (10) pts.):
1/2 avocado
2 slices of turkey
2 vinegar-free pickles (I like Bubbies Pure Kosher Dills.)
flax seed crackers
almond butter
green tea with soymilk
(I was starving when I got home!  Apparently, that salad wasn't filling enough.)

Supper (8):
grass-fed steak (fat cut off)
creamed spinach

Total:  30 pts.

How I felt:
MUCH better today!  I had more energy than usual and had a very productive day.  (I notice I don't need a nap when I stay away from wheat.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No-grains, no sugar diet - Day 2

What I ate -

Breakfast (4 pts):
1 egg, fried in olive oil
baked butternut squash with cinnamon (I baked it last night.)
Green tea w/soymilk

Mid-morning snack (2):
plain, homemade yogurt

Lunch (5):
homemade chicken soup
Green tea w/soymilk

Afternoon snack (5):
flaxseed crackers with almond butter
dandelion tea w/soymilk

Supper (12):
Turkey patties
salad w/olive oil and lemon juice dressing
1/2 avocado

Total pts = 28

How I felt -
Crappy.  It's sugar withdrawal symptoms.  It takes about 3 days for sugar to get out of your system.  The last time I gave up all sugars, I felt like I had the flu for 3 days.  This time, it's not as bad but I did have a headache and nausea all day.  I can tell you from experience that the first 3 days of giving up sugar is the worst.  If you can make it 3 days, then it becomes a lot easier.  You feel better and you won't have cravings.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 1

Today is my first day of being back on my diet of no grains or sugars.  (No fructose or lactose either.)  My weight today was 178 pounds.  (Blerg.  Up from 165 in June.  :P)  I hope to track my success with my blog.  Plus, for those of you out there that want to try it, you can use my meal ideas.  (*Note:  I was on Weight Watchers for years so I still add  up points in my head when I do this diet.  The points listed are my estimates.  Nothing official or anything.)

Breakfast (I estimate about 8 Weight Watchers points):
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 T rice protein powder  (The starch has been removed and the protein extracted.  You can find it at health food stores.  Whey protein would be an alternative.)
2 T flax seeds, ground  (I grind them in my coffee grinder.)
1 T cocoa nibs, ground
about 1 t of chopped fresh ginger  (this makes you almost feel like there's some kind of fruitiness to it.)
1 T almond butter  (I can tolerate small amounts of nut butters, but not nuts themselves.  Strange.)

Blend with a splash of water and ice in a blender.

Mid-Morning Snack (I estimate about 1 Weight Watchers point):
4 sauteed shrimp with lemon pepper and parsley (I got them pre-prepared at Whole Foods, then froze them in tiny, individual tupperwares so they're ready to go.  If you can tolerate nuts, I say eat nuts as a snack!  They travel well.)

Lunch (I estimate about 8 Weight Watchers points):
Salad with arugula (rocket), 2 slices of turkey, 1/2 avocado, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives (vinegar-free), palm hearts, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
Green tea

Afternoon Snack (I estimate about 3 Weight Watchers points):
1 hard boiled egg
2 T black bean dip
celery sticks
Dandelion Tea

Supper (about 5 points):
baked fish (cod)
steamed broccoli
artichoke leaves
olive oil dip:  with lemon, parsely, oregano, salt, and garlic

Total points = 25

So far, so good!  :-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting back on the wagon with chicken soup

Lately, I feel the need to get back on the diet I was on when I lost all that weight.  Because I've been bad.  This summer, I ate all kinds of things and gained 5 pounds.  Not too bad, right?  Well, then some friends of mine came over for a girlie weekend and I ate everything bad for four straight days and gained 8 more pounds.  Seriously!  EIGHT pounds in four days?!?  That's just not right!  It's not like I was stuffing my face either.  I just ate unhealthy things at every meal for four days.  It's crazy how my body puts on weight all at once like that.  On the plus side, my body also loses weight all at once like that too.  I just need to get in the zone.  Since that weekend, I have not gained any more weight, but I have not lost any either. 

Everybody is different, but I cannot lose weight as long as I eat sugar and grains.  Even if I consume very few calories.  (crazy, right?)  It was almost a year ago that I went on a modified Candida Diet and lost 30 pounds.  I ate mostly meat and veggies.  No fruit, vinegar, or sugar, and very limited starches.  (Like 1/2 cup of rice per day at the most.)  This week, I'm getting back with the program.  To kick start it all off, I'm going to eat NO grains at all.  Then, I'll add 1/2 of rice per day next week.  I will post what I eat every day just to prove it can be done.  To add a further challenge, I must avoid nuts because I have discovered that they make my migraines worse.  (There goes my favorite snack food!)

Today being Sunday, I thought I'd make a big pot of chicken soup for lunches this week.  It's a good, filling, yet healthy meal that you can make and freeze in individual tupperwares.  Just as convenient as a processed TV dinner, but way more delicious and healthy!  Here's how I make it:

Chicken Soup

whatever chicken parts you want   (I use 2 legs and 2 thighs b/c I think it makes a better-tasting soup)
1 or 2 carrots, sliced
1 or 2 celery ribs, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
thyme to taste
salt to taste
here's the cool part:  You know those veggies that you have in your fridge that are about to go bad?  The ones you bought with every intention of eating them but it just didn't happen?  Chuck 'em in the soup! 

Put everything in a big pot.  Pour enough water in to cover.  Simmer for 1 hour over medium  heat.  Cool, strain, then cut the chicken off the bone into bite-sized chucks.  Remove bay leaf.

It's nice to have this soup on hand for a quick meal or snack when you need it. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Big Hug for Parent Wannabes

This week, I started fertility treatments again.  I was doing them about 2 years ago, but took a year-long hiatus from it.  I had gotten to the point where the mere thought of going into the doctor's office turned me into an emotional wreck.   Since then, I have lost some weight and have gotten healthier so I thought it was worth another shot.  For those in the know, I am trying IUIs with injectibles.  This is not nearly as invasive as IVF.  I'm not that hopeful since it didn't work the last time, but I'm a little scared of IVF.  This IUI cycle is my last try before I resign myself to the full whack of in-vitro. 

Yesterday morning, I went in super early (7:00am!) for the fertility doctors visit and saw other couples there.  They looked young and healthy and anxious.  I just wanted to give them all a big hug and say, "I TOTALLY know what you're going through".  So----here's a big, virtual hug to all the infertile couples out there.  I totally know what you're going through.

I know that with every year that goes past, you get more and more anxious about that ticking clock.

I know that while you paste on a smile when others tell you they're pregnant, you just can't be truly happy for them.  No matter how much you might want to be.

I know that each mother's day that goes past gets more and more difficult to bear.

I know that when you see terrible parents, you just want to shake them.

I know that you want to scream at God and shout "why?" when yet another teenager gets pregnant even though they were on birth control.

I know that you lose all hope as your friends' children get older and older.   You had wanted your children to grow up with them.

I know that it's another slap in the face when you try for adoption and realize that it's even more difficult and expensive and takes years longer than you ever imagined.

I know that the worst thought is, "what if I go through all of the procedures known to man and it doesn't work?"  What if I never get to have children?  

I know.  I wish I could tell you that it's going to be okay.  For now though, all I can offer is a big hug and lots of understanding.  Most people have no idea.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Good Snack to Have on Hand

In her book The Gut Flush Plan, author Ann Louise Gittleman includes several recipes.  I made this Tangy Tapenade yesterday and find that it is a delicious, nutritious snack!  It's great to have this in the fridge, along with some cut veggies, to help when you have the munchies. 

Ann Louise's Tangy Tapenade
Serve this delicious and flavorful blend on grilled poultry, fish, or a burger, and, of course, with raw or steamed veggies.

2 T pitted black olives
2 T green olives with pimentos
2 T drained capers
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup flaxseed oil
3 T fresh lemon juice
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or electric blender, and pulse lightly to blend.  Do not puree.  Transfer to a container with lid and refrigerate until serving time.  Store leftover tapenade in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 cup or 4 1/4 cup servings.

I cut up some celery, carrots, zucchini, daikon radish, and bell peppers to dip in the tapenade.  Yum!  I have it all in the fridge, ready to grab when I get hungry.  Also, I made a salad dressing by mixing a spoonful of the tapenade in some olive oil, and adding more lemon juice.  It came out great!


After a month of traveling (during which I totally strayed from my diet), I felt the need to get back to healthy eating.  I just feel better when I stick to my diet.  Detoxing can give you a kick-start in the right direction and rid your system of all the bad things you've ingested.  They say that if the digestive system is polluted, then it will pollute your bloodstream, and indirectly, your whole body.  Cleansing your digestive system if one of the best things you can do for your health.

     To this end, I have found the book The Gut Flush Plan by Ann Louis Gittleman very helpful.  (It's not quite what it sounds like.  This is the same author as The Fat Flush Plan.)  This book suggests many of the same things I'm already doing.  (giving up wheat and dairy, taking fish oil and probiotics, etc.)  It kind of validated everything in my mind.  She outlines a 3-week cleansing diet, which I have been following.  (more or less)  I'm in week two, but I did cheat and have cheese fries with a friend one day.  :-(  Oh well....more to cleanse, right?
Week 1 = fortifying - before the detox part, it helps your body if you fortify first.  This will make it less jarring to your system.  Dr. Gittleman suggests eating probiotic foods, healthy oils, drinking teas like honeybush and dandelion root, etc.
Week 2 = flush - clearing out all the bad things in your gut.
Week 3 = feed - feeding the good bacteria in your gut and starving all the bad bacteria will ensure good health in the future. 

If you suffer from the following, this book can help you:  bloating, gas, irregularity, recurring diarrhea, IBS, food allergies, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, depression, Hypoglycemia, constant headaches

I especially liked chapter 14 - "Gut Flush at Home" because she tells you how to cleanse your home so that it can support your health.  She tells you how to get rid of mold, bacteria, parasites, and other dangerous things that could be lurking in your home.  Good to know!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Green Cleaning

I have been thinking about green cleaning products lately.  There are several that I use now, but I don't really know what I'm doing and I haven't been using them consistently.  They say that regular cleaning products can make the air in your house more toxic to breathe than outside air!  I know I feel sick when I use certain products.  Anyway, I was excited to find this post about how to create your own green cleaners and how to use them.  I want to pass this info on!  If you are like me, this will help shed some light on the situation:

This post tells you how to make your own cleaning solutions out of natural things like vinegar, borax, club soda, corn meal, lemon juice, baking soda, etc.  Not only are these things healthier for you and your environment, they are cheaper than the cleaners you have been buying.  It's win-win!

I especially like their advice on how to clean carpets:
       "Carpet cleaner: To clean and disinfect your carpet, the CHEC recommends blending 1/2 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, and 1 cup cornmeal. Sprinkle mixture over rug and rub with a cloth. Let rest for several hours or overnight, then vacuum. To remove stains from your carpet, Logan advises mixing 1/4 cup liquid castile soap and 1/3 cup water in a blender until foamy. Spread the mixture on the carpet and let sit for a few minutes, then scrub the stain with a brush or clean rag. Also, club soda will remove many acidic stains, like coffee, wine, or juice. To deal with big carpet spills, pour cornmeal on the spill, wait 15 minutes, then vacuum."

I'm going to try this today and I'll let you know how it works.  Has anyone out there had experience with  natural cleaning solutions and methods?  I'd love to hear about any other good tips out there. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tips for Traveling with Comfort and Good Health

There's nothing worse than feeling sick when you're traveling overseas.  I've traveled to and from Europe once a year (and sometimes twice) for the last decade.  SO - I've picked up some tips that help me feel good when I fly on those long-haul flights, and I'm passing them to you!  I hope you find them helpful.

Tip #1:  Wear comfortable yet nice clothing.

There are two ways of thinking on this.  Some people prefer to dress as comfortably as possible when flying and wear sweats or jeans and flip-flops.  Some people say it's better to dress nicely so that the airport personnel take you seriously if you have to dispute anything.  I like to combine both!  I wear super comfy clothes that also look halfway decent.  You don't want to go to the service desk in nasty 'ol sweats and flips flops.  They will NOT take you seriously.  (Also, think of the passport control at the other side.)  I usually wear some black, loose-fitting, cotton slacks with a button up knit shirt.  The best travel shoes ever?  Lands End All-Weather Mocasins (I wear black).  Love them!  They slip off and on easily and they are water proof.  These make going through security (where you have to take your shoes off) a breeze!  Also, they feel like sneakers, but look like nice black shoes.

Tip #2:  Avoid airline food like the plague! 

 I can't tell you how many times I have felt intense headache pain and nausea on flights! Luckily, I found a way to avoid this.  The last few times I traveled, I brought along some Larabars to snack on.  I like them because they are all natural and are basically made of dried fruit and nuts.  Then, when I get to the lay-over airport (this time, Houston) I go to Panda Express and get fried rice, steamed vegetables, and chicken.  Even though the fried dishes look awesome, I avoid them.   I tell myself I'll get something nice when I get to where I'm going.  Sometimes, I'll also get a green tea from Starbucks  (these two are usually  beside each other in a lot of airports).   Why Panda Express?  They are one of the few options that have no MSG in their food!  I fill up on rice, meat, and veg and then I do not eat anything on the plane.  Also, I only drink water when the drink cart comes by.  It sounds like a drag but it's SO worth it to not feel like crap and to have the energy to do fun things when you get to your destination.

Tip #3:  Pack light!

When packing, if in doubt, leave it out.  If you have your passport, ticket, money, all other stuff can be replaced easily if need be.  It's a drag to lug around endless luggage.  Also, they are making it harder and harder to bring excess baggage on planes. I love my small rolly carry-on bag.  I learned last trip that it's worth it to bring a pair of undies, a big T-shirt, a small pouch of detergent (to wash the clothes you're wearing), and a toothbrush and small toothpaste in your carry-on.  Our suitcases got lost and it's really nice to have these things if/when it does.

New Find for this trip:
The Total Pillow!  I  found this at Walgreen's in the "as seen on TV" section.  It's very versatile and I have to say it makes the best neck pillow I've ever tried.  I could sleep easily on the plane (and bus!) without my head rolling all around and me getting a crick in my neck.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Yummy, No-Grain Supper

When you're on a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free (and lately grain-free) diet, people always ask:  "What's left to eat?"  Well, here is one meal idea for supper.

  • Grass-fed Ribeye steak (I use my friend Dot's recipe on her blog.  It's so delicious, I only cook steak this way these days!)
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • green salad with homemade dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fresh herbs, and salt)
  • Mockarita  (scroll down to bottom of page)
Leave off the mushrooms, and you've got a yeast-connection-diet-friendly meal too.
Happy eating!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Breakfast fit for a queen

I love a good weekend breakfast!  Unfortunately, I can't have things like pancakes, waffles, bacon, etc.  so I have to improvise.  Here is something I put together yesterday morning (Saturday) and it was truly delicious and seemed decadent. 

Bacon Alternative:  I cannot eat bacon and other processed meats because the nitrates they use to preserve them give me serious migraines.  (My uncle was the one who told me about this because he gets these too.  Does anyone else have this problem?)  I have found nitrate-free bacon, but there is always sugar in it!  I guess the sugar takes the place of the nitrates to preserve it?  Anyway, it's a rock and a hard place situation.  Until now!

Did you know you can fry up prosciutto and it gets crisp just like bacon?  Okay, so it's not quite as tasty, but it's a close second!  They don't put the preservatives in prosciutto like they do with bacon.  (Not sure why.  Anyone?)  The ingredients listed were just "pork, salt, and spices".

Fried eggs:  I use real eggs from grass-fed, truly free-range, organic, chickens.  This makes all the difference!  Yum.

Butternut squash hash:  I took some leftover roasted butternut squash, cut it up, topped in with chopped pecans and a bit more cinnamon and butter, and baked it for about 10 minutes or so.  This made a perfect, sweet companion to my eggs and "bacon".

Chai with coconut milk:  Need I say more?

There you have it.  A great breakfast that royalty would envy! 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Who knew butternut squash was so delicious?

Oh, butternut squash, where have you been all my life?  I happened upon this recipe in the Candida Control Cookbook and it happens to fit into the Specific Carbohydrate Diet too.  It is sweet enough to be dessert!  The taste reminds me of a cross between pumpkin and sweet potatoes.  I suppose you could substitute butternut squash for the sweet potatoes when making casserole for a low-carb version.  Also, I've made "pumpkin pie" with butternut squash instead of pumpkin and it tastes almost identical!

Treat yourself to this yummy, healthy dessert!

Roasted Butternut Squash
1 Butternut Squash
cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Wash, dry, and cut squash length-wise.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.

SO easy and you won't believe how delicious it is!  (...and I usually don't even like squash!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thai Yum Yum Soup!

Thai lemon grass soup is one of my favorite things!  It's called "Tom Yum" soup, but I call it "Yum Yum" soup.  Here is the recipe I use:

Tom Yum Soup

2 pounds raw shrimp
1 Tablespoon oil (sesame works well)
8 cups hot water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 stalks lemon grass (or 4 strips lemon rind, thinly peeled)
4 lemon or other citrus leaves (if you can find them)
2 or 3 fresh whole chilies
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (You buy it bottled.  Sometimes, I leave this ingredient out and it still tastes delicious.)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
1 fresh chili, seeded and sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 green onions, chopped
sliced mushrooms (1 package)

Shell and de-vein shrimp.  Wash shrimp heads well, drain thoroughly.  Heat oil in a saucepan and fry heads and shells of shrimp until they turn pink.  Add hot water, salt, lemon grass, citrus leaves, and whole chilies.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain stock, return to a boil, add mushrooms and shrimp and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until shrimp are cooked.  Add fish sauce and lemon juice to taste.  This soup should have a pronounced acid flavor, so add sufficient lemon juice to achieve this.  Serve in a large tureen or in soup bowls, sprinkled with sliced chili, cilantro, and spring onions.

I'm in love with these blueberry muffins!

I have recently switched from the Yeast Connection Diet to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).  Basically, this means that I used to not be able to eat anything sweet.  Not even fruit!  However, I could eat grains as long as they were gluten-free and had no sugar or yeast.  Now, I can eat fruit and even honey, but I cannot eat any grains.  It'll be a challenge, but I'm ready for a change.  Plus, I am SO excited about eating fruit again! 

I found this recipe in the "Eat Well Feel Well" cookbook by Kendall Conrad.  These muffins turned out really well and were super tasty and moist.  The recipe calls for almond flour, but I used hazelnut flour with delicious results.  (Nut flours are just nuts ground up really finely.  There is no actual flour in this recipe.  I  buy it at Whole Foods but you can make your own nut flour by grinding your nuts of choice in a food processor.)
Try 'em!  They are high-protein, low-glyemic index, and relatively low-carb.

SCD Blueberry Almond (or hazelnut) Muffins

3 cups almond flour (or any other nut flour)
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or ghee (Butter has very little lactose and ghee has none.  Alternatively, you can substitute olive oil if you like.)
1/4  cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.  Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.  In a food processor, puree the almond flour, eggs, butter, honey, baking soda, vanilla, and salt until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and gently fold in the blueberries.  With a big spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve warm with butter and honey if desired.
Makes 1 dozen.

When I made these, I decided to turn them into cupcakes by making icing for them.  (...because everyone knows that cupcakes are muffins with icing, right?)  This honey icing was delicious!  I have to say though, I don't think I boiled the honey long enough because it turned out really thin.  Make sure you boil it long enough if you want a thick, spreadable icing.

Honey Frosting

1 cup honey
1 egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil the honey until a drop forms a firm ball in cold water.  Add gradually to beaten egg white.  Whip until stiff and add vanilla.  This frosting is marshmallow-like and remains spreadable for hours. 

I hope you like these as much as I did!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Recent visit to the Functional Medicine Practitioner

A while back, I mentioned that I went to see a Functional Medicine Practitioner who I called Dr. Cooper.  She has really helped me to figure out what my body needs and has helped me feel better.  My migraines have not gone away altogether, but they have decreased in intensity and in duration. 

Two days ago, I went in for a check-up.  I had not seen her since September and I wanted to see how much I had improved since then. 

What I found out:
1.  I really do have a wheat allergy.  Crazy that I've gone 35 years without realizing it until this year. 
2.  Other allergies I have:  dairy, apple (weird, huh?), oats, pecans, and walnuts.  (These aren't intense allergies where I have to have a shot or anything, but these things do cause problems for me.)
3.  Dr. Cooper re-iterated that my headaches are caused by stress on my digestive system.  (caused by Candida and bad bacteria.)
4.  The Candida yeast are almost under control.  I will finish out my current Nystatin prescription, then stop.
5.  Now that the yeast is much improved, there is a high amount of bad bacteria showing up in my gut.  This is what we are addressing now.
6.  I have low Progesterone levels.

What I don't know yet:
1.  Last time, Dr. Cooper found that I had insanely low levels of vitamin D.  A healthy level is in the 80's and no one should ever be below 32 b/c it puts you at high risk for all sorts of things (including cancer).  My level in September was 19!!  I have been taking crazy high amounts (5000 mg) of vitamin D since then to build up my reserves.  Dr. Cooper has ordered a blood test for me to see if I still need to be taking that high dose.

What I will do now:
1.  Continue to eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet --BUT I will ramp it up a bit and follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (see below) which prohibits all grains and sugars except fruit and honey.
2.  Dr. Cooper has changed my diet from the Yeast Connection diet combined with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to just the Specific Carbohydrate Diet ONLY!  This means I can eat fruit!  HOORAY! (I haven't had fruit in 8 months.....well...except when I cheated...rarely.)  FYI - here is a more critical look at the diet.  It's good to consider all sides.
3.  Take 50 mg of progesterone per day.
4.  Continue with all of my supplements which she originally prescribed.  (I will list them soon.)
5.  Get my vitamin D levels tested.

That's pretty much it.  I am going to exercise more.  It seems like that's the first thing that goes out the window when I get busy.  I will have time to get back on track over the summer.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What I like to have for a Friday Night Splurge

I LOVE fried shrimp!  That's  one of the things I really miss about being gluten-free.  Luckily, I've found a way to fry shrimp using rice flour.  Yum!

Fried Shrimp and Tartar Sauce

The sauce:
On my diet, I can't have pre-made tartar sauce b/c of the sugar and vinegar content.  Here is a good mock.
Step 1:  Make your own mayonnaise.  (I used to think this was hard.  It's not!  It literally takes me 10 minutes to do.  Also, I thought I didn't like mayo.  I just don't like the pre-packaged kind.  Homemade tastes completely different!)  Mayonnaise starts with an egg yolk, into which you force oil, and it will hold it in creamy suspension.
a)  Heat a bowl (this is important!  The yolk won't "take" the oil if it's not heated.  I learned this from Julia Child.  Love her!)
b)  Put one egg yolk into the bowl (Save the egg white!  You'll see why later.)
c)  Beat the yolk for about a minute (I use an electric, hand-held mixer.)
d)  Add salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and about  2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (most recipes call for a squirt of mustard at this point but I find it doesn't  need it.)
e)  Beat for another minute or so.
f)   While the mixer is still on, SLOWLY  mix in 1 cup of olive oil.  I usually spoon it in first, then pour in a small strean when it reaches the half-way point.
g)  When all the oil  in incorporated, you have mayonnaise!

Step 2:   Make the tartar.
a)  Take 1 cup of mayonnaise and put it into a separate bowl.
b)  Add one half finely chopped onion, one half finely chopped cucumber, a handful of fresh dill, one half lemon, finely chopped (skin and all!), more salt, if needed, to taste.
c)  Store in fridge for at least a half an hour before eating.

The Shrimp:
a)  Peel and clean however many shrimp you want.  (I use about 8 BIG shrimp per person.)  Make sure you cut along the vein and remove it.  This is the shrimp's poo.  You do not want to eat it!  I can't tell you how many times I've had shrimp in restaurants where they do not remove the veins.  This is a pet peeve of mine.  Yuck!
b)  Dry the shrimp, then dip each one in the egg white (remember the one from the mayo?)
c)  Then, coat the shrimp with the following mixture:
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • finely chopped garlic
  • chopped fresh oregano and basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
d)  Fry the coated shrimp in a frying pan with some olive oil (enough to liberally coat the bottom of the pan.)  When the shrimp turn cloudy, they're done.  It usually takes about 5 minutes or so per side.

Serve immediately with the tartar sauce.  Add a green salad and you have a great meal!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

No-Milk Shake

I seem to be on a banana kick lately so I'll share with you another delicious, sweet alternative.  Banana No-Milk shake!  You won't believe how good this tastes.  It's just as good as any milkshake you've ever had.  The cool thing is that it's healthy enough to have for breakfast too.  (Warning:  the sugar-content is high.  It's fruit sugar, but those who are sugar-sensitive should watch portions.)

Banana No-Milk Shake
1 Banana
a handful of almonds
5 or 6 dried dates
water and ice

Blend the almonds with about a cup of water.  It will get milky-white and slightly frothy.  Then, add the banana and the dates.  Blend well.  Add ice to the desired consistency (usually about a cup).  Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Serves 1 

Even though it's really simple and there are only 3 real ingredients, it's still amazingly delicious and plenty sweet even though there is no added sugar.  Dates and bananas are crazy sweet!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bananas Lynster (Kinda like Bananas Foster but without the bad stuff.)

I don't want to brag or anything but here is an absolutely delicious dessert that I made up.  Okay, so there's no such thing as a truly healthy dessert, but this is much healthier than most other desserts out there.  Plus, it's gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free (although it does have fruit sugar and agave syrup).  If you're going to splurge, this is the way to go! 

Bananas Lynster
1 banana, sliced
sprinkle of cinnamon
finely chopped fresh ginger (about a teaspoon)
shopped pecans (a handful)
1/2 teaspoon of alcohol-free vanilla extract (I like "Spice Shoppe")
1 T sesame oil (You can use other oils, but I find the sesame fries up the bananas better and more crisply.)
coconut milk ice-cream, sweetened with agave syrup (such as "Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss")

Sprinkle the sliced banana with the cinnamon.  Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan.  When hot, add bananas and fry until slightly crisp.  (About 10 minutes or so.)  Towards the end of the frying, add the vanilla, chopped ginger, and pecans.  Stir and cook for a few mintues.  Put the banana mixture in a bowl and top with the coconut milk ice-cream.     
Serves 1 (You can double, triple, quadruple, etc. this recipe if you want to make it for more people.)

Enjoy!  You won't miss the bad stuff!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Not Soy Good After All?

I've always heard that highly processed ingredients from soy are bad for you.  Things like soy-protein isolate and the like.  It is in a surprisingly large amount of familiar products.  Conversely, I've always heard that natural forms of soy are good for you.  (Like soy milk and tofu.)  This article I read today makes me rethink that.  It scares me to think that an ingredient in gasoline may have been used to process my soy milk this morning!  Be safe.  Buy organic.  It's not perfect, but it does help limit the amount of chemicals you are ingesting.  Check out this article and tell me what you think.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Off the Wagon

Okay so I fell off the wagon this weekend.  I had some friends staying at my house (with 2 boys aged 3 and 5) and there were several college friends of mine around eating (and drinking) all sorts of things.  I gave in.  Oh well.  At least it was an opportunity to see what would happen if I did eat wheat, dairy, and sugar.  (and yes, I had all 3!)

Well, apparently I really do have issues with wheat.  My stomach was not happy!  I felt bloated, gassy, and had some tummy issues as well.  When I had a coke one day (the first one I've had in over 7 months), I could not sleep that night because my stomach felt like it was in knots.  Dairy makes me feel bloaty, but cheese give me a horrible headache.  I guess it's nice to know which food causes which issues so I'll know in the future.  More importantly, I am now more aware that my crazy gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet is working and I'm more resolved to stay on it.

Getting back on the wagon:
This is hard to do.  Even though my body is having these symptoms, it craves food with wheat, dairy, and sugar (esp) in them.  It's an addiction situation I think.  SO - I'm back off wheat and dairy, but am still eating sugar for today.  Tomorrow, I'll kick the sugar.  I find it easier to do it in steps like this. If I go off all 3 at once, I feel terrible and lack energy to get through the day. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Grand Master P (as in in acu..)

I have baffled my acupuncturist!  (I call him Dr. Needles.)  I was doing really well and had not had a migraine in over 3 weeks and was feeling really good and almost cocky that I had gotten rid of them.  Then, came the smack down!  Almost every day this week, I have had a headache.  Some were full-blown migraines, others were just bad enough to make my day miserable.  There doesn't seem to be any reason for it.  No major changes or anything.

SO - since Dr. Needles couldn't figure out my deal, he set up a free session with his teacher and mentor who I will call "Grand Master P".  This guy is like the triple black belt mac daddy of acupuncture.  He is a sweet, tiny, Chinese man who drives in from Texas about once a  month or so to consult with and provide guidance to his student, Dr. Needles.  (Apparently, like music, acupuncture is an ongoing learning process.) 

Grand Master P was very helpful.  He asked loads of questions before diagnosing me with "Qi stagnation".  According to him, Qi is life energy and it flows throughout the body.  Sometimes, it flows into a part of your body but doesn't flow back out for some reason.  This is Qi (pronounce "Chee") stagnation.  In my case the Qi is flowing to my head and is getting blocked up there.  The energy has to go somewhere so it comes out as pain.  He said that the remedy for me is to pull the energy back down from my head.  (I don't know how much of this I subscribe to.  I'm just saying what he said.)

He put a lot more needles in than usual and I have to say they stung a bit.   He said that if it stings a little, that means it's working.  If it burns, then that's not good.  Two of them burned like hell so he had to adjust them.  I think he put them in deeper than usual.  As he did this, we had a very nice chat about life, music, and everything.  He plays the western as well as the Chinese flute and was very interested to hear about my oboe playing.  We agreed to play some duets and swap CD's next time he comes into town.  Very cool guy.   

As Grand Master P was leaving the room to let me rest with the needles in for 20 minutes, one of them fell out.  It happened to be the one near where my head had been hurting that morning.  When I told him this, he said "That's good!  When that happens, we don't put it back in. When the body redirects energy, sometimes it rejects a needle and pushes it back out.  When it does this, it means it doesn't need that needle any more."  Isn't that crazy?  If it hadn't had this happen to me, I don't think I would've believed it.  I have never had a needle come out before.  I don't know what it means, but there it is.

I have to say, I felt tons better and way more relaxed after my visit with Grand Master P.  This is good because I have friends staying at my house with 2 little boys aged 5 and 3.  I totally need my energy this weekend!  :-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Almond Meal Muffins

Breakfast is the hardest meal for those of us who are gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free.  I was very happy to find this recipe for some high-protein muffins.  These are quite tasty and less "brick-like" than other high-protein muffins I've tried.  I made a batch on Saturday, popped them in the freezer, and have been having them for breakfast and/or snacks this week. 

Almond Meal Muffins:

1 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup ground almonds (or walnuts)
3/4 cup whey protein powder (I used rice protein powder)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (alcohol-free preferred.  I used "Spice Shoppe" brand.)
2/3 cup grated carrot
2/3 cup soft tofu
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into muffins tins.  (The batter needed more liquid so I mixed in some soy milk when I made them.)  Bake 20-25 minutes.

High-protein, low-carb, high-fiber, and delicious!  :-) 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kefir Disclaimer

Well, I feel like I should warn people that kefir may not be a good thing for migraine sufferers to drink.  I have been drinking a cup of the stuff a day because I've been reading about all the health  benefits of it.  Sadly, fermented dairy can be a migraine trigger in some people and I suspect I'm one of them.  I can handle home-made yogurt, but kefir is much more fermented.

I had a "woolly-booger" of a migraine on Monday night.  It was weird because I had just gone to the acupuncturist and felt slightly dizzy afterwards.  By the time I got home, it was full-throttle headache and nausea which lasted all night.  Yuck.  I was thinking:  did he put the needle in the "make headache worse" spot instead of the "make headache better" spot?  I also had a migraine this afternoon on the other side.

Well, after reviewing my food diary I noticed that the one thing I've been consuming that is different is the kefir.  I'm going to give it up and see if the headaches get better.  Just thought I'd warn you about it.  I guess I'll go back to my non-dairy probiotic pills instead.  It's like ongoing detective work.

Has anyone else noticed a correlation between fermented dairy and migraines?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Snack as Medicine

I'm growing more and more fond of the idea that food is medicine.  Healthy food can supply your body with the nutrients that can help it fight off whatever disease it's exposed to.  To this end, here's a snack idea I came across:

  • 1/2 avocado with 1/2 cup saurkraut 
  • 1 cup kefir with 1T ground flax seeds and 1t unsweetened cranberry concentrate
Avocado - did you know that avocados have 60% more potassium than bananas?  Also, vitamins B, E, and K.  It also supplies good fat as well as 2 grams of soluble fiber per 1/2 avocado. It is soothing for the whole digestive tract.

Saurkraut - I didn't know this but apparently it has more beneficial bacteria (lactobacilli) than yogurt!  It is also a good source of vitamin C and contain beneficial enzymes to aid in digestion.  Make sure you get the kind without vinegar and/or other preservatives.  I like "Bubbies" saurkraut.  It only has 3 ingredients:  cabbage, salt, and water. 

Kefir - (I like Helios Kefir)  It's like yogurt but better!  Provides lots of good bacteria that not only help you digest things, but helps fight off the "bad bugs".  Did you know that 70% of disease in the body begins in the gut?   If your gut is filled with garbage, then your blood is also filled with garbage.  Heal your gut and your body will follow!

Flax Seeds - contains omega 3's and a lot of fiber.  You should aim to get 2 Tablespoons of ground flax seeds per day.  I grind them in a coffee grinder and sprinkle it on cereal, put it in shakes or kefir, used as  breading for pan-fried things, or baked in muffins.  

Unsweetened Cranberry Juice Concentrate - provides the health benefits of cranberries without the sugar.  It's good in kefir, but I also like to mix a small amount of it with Perrier or other sparkling water, and add some lemon or lime juice.  it makes you feel like you're drinking something special but it's still really good for you.

There you go!  A snack that's low in carbs and will help keep you healthy.  :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weight Loss

I'm going to discuss here how my body loses weight (and gains it).  It is different than most conventional wisdom on the topic.  For instance, they say it's best to lose weight slowly over time.  Also, I've heard it said that you can't gain a significant amount in only a week or so.

My Body and Weight Gain:
In the week before my wedding (almost 7 years ago!) I found out that YES you can gain a significant amount of weight in less than a week.  When it got to be a week before my wedding, I had already had the last fitting for my dress and I thought, "Whew!  One week can't make much difference so I can just eat what I want!"  So I ate whatever I wanted that week.  Plus, I was stressed and carbs are something I crave when I'm stressed.  Um....well... let's just say my dress was really tight on the wedding day.  It had fit perfectly 5 days earlier, and on the day I thought I wasn't going to be able to zip it up!  (I sucked in and did, but talk about stressy!)

My Body and Weight Loss:
As you can see above, my body gains weight all at once.  As I later found out, my body also loses weight all at once.  Fast forward to September 2009.  My Functional Medical Practitioner put me on a Yeast-Free diet combined with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  This means that you either take the Yeast-Free diet and remove all the grains and potatoes from it; OR you take the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and remove the fruit and honey.  Basically, you can only eat meat and veg.  No grains, starches, fruit, or sweeteners of any kind.  Also no dairy because of the lactose (dairy sugar).  If you're thinking this is a crazy, impossible diet - you're right!  (Kinda)  My husband calls it "the worst diet in the world".  I found that after 3 days, it got much easier.  After a week, it's almost automatic.  Once you get used to making all your meals with weird ingredients, it's really not hard at all.

This diet is a corrective diet and is not intended to be used indefinitely.  I was also put on a lot of vitamin supplements for a few weeks before I started this diet and I believe they REALLY helped me stay on it.  I didn't crave things because my nutritional needs were being met.  Also, I got off of all the addictive substances I was on (like caffiene and sugar) before I started this. 

Well, I lost 20 pounds almost over night.  It was crazy!  It came off all at once over a span of about 2 weeks.  People thought I was ill!  I know conventional wisdom says that this is unhealthy, but I felt good doing this and my body became healthier overall.  The other 10 pounds or so came off over the next month.  I never lost this kind of weight on any other diet.  When I was on Weight Watchers, I was eating WAY less calories than I was on this diet but they were from a lot of sugar and processed foods.  This is a real foods diet and you cannot have processed food on it.  (NOTE:  This is NOT in any way like the Atkins Diet.  A lot of people think it is but it's not because you don't count carbs, you can have as many veggies as you want, and things like bacon and animal fat are not allowed!  Also things like Atkins bars and other products are forbidden on this because of all the terrible chemicals that are in them.) 

When I was on this diet, a typical day's food was the following:

Ultra Shake (rice protein, almond milk, nut butter, ground flax seeds, flax oil, and ginger)
OR 1/2 avocado with raw flax crackers

snack:  a handful of any kind of raw nuts (except peanuts)

canned salmon with frozen broccoli and lemon juice
or leftover supper
or chicken soup

snack: raw flax seed crackers with nut butter or tahini
OR veggies and black bean hummous

any kind of meat with any kind of veg
(example:  lamb chops with asparagus and kale)

As you can see, this is not a low-fat diet!  In fact, it is very decidedly high fat.  BUT - the fat is all good fat and comes from healthy sources.  I couldn't believe how well it worked.

I now realize that I need to go back on this diet for at least a week or two.  Right now I weigh 165 pounds and need to lose about 30 more.  My weight has stabilized and I haven't lost any more for a few months.  This is because I eat more carbs now.  (Not bad carbs like white flour and sugar!)  Just things like rice cakes, quinoa, gluten-free bread, brown rice, millet cereal, etc.  This is fine for maintenance, but I'm finding that in order to lose weight I must reduce carbs.  I recently read that a high-protein and good fat diet sends your body a "dump fat" message.  On the other hand, a high carb diet sends your body a "store fat" message.      

Over Christmas, I ate all sorts of things.  BUT - I didn't gain any weight because I made sure that whatever I ate was real.  If I ate a piece of cake, it was homemade with no artificial chemicals, transfats, or high fructose corn syrup.  We were in Greece this Christmas so I ate things like Baklava, tsoureki,  and candied oranges.  The good thing there is that bakeries in Greece do not use commercial chemicals and additives the way they do in this country.  Things are still made with real ingredients.  I KNOW this is why I could eat all those things and not gain a single pound back.  So:  If you're going to cheat, make sure it's REAL!

I'm sure everybody loses weight differently, but this worked for me.  What has worked for you?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Here's a new healthy breakfast idea I came across:

Scrambled eggs and kefir with ground flaxseeds.
It provides hunger-fighting protein, a dose of probiotics, fiber, and omega 3's in one meal. 
I had it yesterday and today.  Yummy and yay!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Verdi and Needles

Thursday night was our last big symphony concert of the season.  We ended it off big with Verdi's Requiem.  The chorus was HUGE!  There were literally hundreds of people on the stage.  It's exciting to play this kind of music.  The only bad thing was that someone's hearing aid was turned up too high and there was a hideous squeal that accompanied the first 2 movements.  Ugh!  It really was annoying and horrible.  It was driving me (and everybody else) nuts!  Luckily, our conductor is really good at handling these kinds of things.  After the second movement, he turned to the audience and explained what the noise was and he requested that people with hearing aids turn them down.  The situation was fixed immediately and didn't happen again after that.  Yay!  I'm so glad our conductor is so diplomatic.  I have known previous conductors in the past to throw absolute diva fits over things like this!

For the first time, I had my acupuncture session before I played the concert.  I really didn't know what was going to happen, but I hoped that I would be more relaxed.  Lately, I have had issues with performance anxiety which is weird because I never used to.  Over the past few years, I have developed gut issues that happen just before performance time.  It's obnoxious!  I can't eat anything except broth and rice on the day of a performance or else I'll regret it.  Anyway, I was hoping the acupuncture would help with this.

Although the session did help with a headache which was forming on the left side, I didn't notice a change in the gut issues.  However, I did feel much more relaxed and I had much less anxiety about it.  So that's good.  I didn't tell my acupuncturist about the stomach thing but maybe I should.  (duh)  Overall, I think the acupuncture is helping.  I have not had to take a day off work since I started.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Possible Help for Women Migraine Sufferers

I am so excited because I found this book that has some ideas for naturally healing migraines.  I don't know if it will work, and I'm certainly not recommending that you do these things.  However, you may want to discuss these things with your doctor and perhaps get your hormones tested.

In the book, it says that 10 times more women have migraines than men and 80% of these are due to a lack of progesterone.  Apparently, during days 14-28 of your cycle, progesterone levels drop off which can cause migraines along with PMS symptoms.  (In fact, most women who have PMS also have migraines.  Hmmm.)
Anyway, the book suggests that taking 50 mg progesterone supplements during days 14 - 28 of your cycle may help stop migraines.  (Note:  Only bio-identlical progesterone.  Synthetic progesterone doesn't work the same way and can have side effects.)  Also, it advises other various supplements.  I had heard that some migraines could be from a lack of Magnesium.  (Dr. Hyman covers this in his books.)

Here's what the book advises:
1.  50mg progesterone 2x per day.
2.  100mg of Magnesium 3x per day.
3.  Essential Fatty Acids:  Omega 3 + GLA + Oleic Acid
4.  Iodine - 12.5 mg per day.
5.  Vitamin D - 5000 IU per day.

Again, I am NOT saying you should just start taking these.  If you have migraines however, and you are a menstruating woman, you may want to show this to your doctor and ask what they think.  I know I'm going to!  Actually, my Functional Medicine Practitioner had already recommended most of these things to me so I'm already doing everything except the progesterone.  I'm going to get my levels tested and I'll be curious to see the result.  Wouldn't it be awesome if I could prevent any more migraines from happening by taking progesterone pills? 

Has anyone out there had any luck with taking progesterone to heal migraines?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Acupuncture Update

I haven't kept up with my acupuncture session reports so here's an update:

I went almost 2 weeks without a migraine but then I had one this past Saturday on the left side, then Monday on the right side.  The interesting thing is that the pattern has changed.  I used to always wake up with a migraine if I was going to have one.  Now, these past two started in the late afternoon/night.  (Which I actually prefer because at least I don't have to take off from work.   But I still would like to not have them!) 

Today, I told my acupuncturist about this change.  He said that there is a Yin and Yang balance and that Yin is associated in the morning, but Yang is associated with afternoon.  (Or maybe it was vice versa.  I don't quite remember, but it was interesting to me.)

Anyway, I am having crazy allergies lately and have developed a rash on my arms.  Apparently, the cold weather we had earlier has caused the oak trees to produce WAY more pollen than usual.  This sucks because I'm really allergic to it.  Oh well.  Anyway, the needles stung a little today.  It's probably b/c my skin is more sensitive these days.

I did feel much more relaxed after today's session.  The relaxed feeling even lasted through my orchestra rehearsal.  We'll see how it goes.  One cool thing - my acupuncturist digs classical music and may come to our upcoming symphony concert.  I love it when people are enthusiastic about symphony!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I am Not a Vegetarian (or a Vegan)

Since I started to change my diet and eat healthily, I have had many people ask me, "why aren't you a vegetarian?"  After all---isn't vegetarianism the healthiest way to eat?  Well, not necessarily.  Here's my reasoning as to why I continue to eat meat:

No Waste!  (like the Indians):
First of all, let me say that if I had to kill an animal in order to eat it, I definitely would be a vegetarian.  I know I could not kill an animal.  However, since it's already done anyway and the animal is dead, wouldn't it be wrong to waste its flesh?  I know the idea is that less demand leads to less production, but in reality, SO much food is thrown away in this country.  Over production seems to run rampant in the food industry.  (...and don't get me started on overproduction of corn due to corn subsidies from the government!)  So I feel that if I don't eat meat, then I'm saving a bit of flesh that an animal sacrificed from ending up in a landfill somewhere.

Even Vegans Kill:
Second of all, vegetarians and vegans are kidding themselves if they think they are not contributing to the death of animals.  Farming practices kill all kinds of animals.  For example, thousands of field mice get run over by harvesting equipment every time it is used.  Also, the land that is cleared for farming deprives animals of their habitat.  In fact, if we all were to become vegan, a lot more animal species would become extinct due to the vast amount of land if would require us to clear in order to grow all that grain and veggies.

Avoid Bad Juju:
So, either way, we're gonna kill some animals.  I think that the best way to deal with this is to treat the animals with respect and dignity and to give them a humane death.  Meat factory farms are NOT doing this.  To put animals in confined spaces so they can barely move, forcing them to stand knee-high in their own filth, then force-feeding them a diet of corn that they are not able to digest properly, then killing them on an assembly line is not treating them with respect.  Apparently, the stun-gun that they use to stun the cow before slaughter doesn't always do the job and a percentage of cows end up getting skinned alive.  How horrible!  I really  think that we are really racking up some bad karma over the way we treat the animals we eat.  I want no part of this.  Recently, I made the decision to not buy meat from these places or support places who do.  (This means ALL fast-food joints, folks!)  Seriously, factory farming cows is one of the biggest contributors of global warming and is terrible for the environment.  Grass-fed cows from small farms are much better for the environment. 

Buy Local and Grass-Fed (preferable Grass-Finished):
I now go out of my way to get grass-finished beef.  (Some meat-producers are letting their corn-fed cows eat grass for one day before slaughter and are calling it"grass-fed".   OR they will allow a cow that was raised on grass to eat corn to fatten it up before slaughter.  A new term, "grass-finished", had to be invented to differentiate between those and the cows that really are grass-fed their whole lives.)  If it's not available, I don't eat beef that week.

I was eggxcited (booo) to find some free-range eggs at my local farmer's market yesterday.  The man who raises them says that these chickens have the run of his whole property!  This made me feel good because "free-range" doesn't always mean free-range.  Commercial chicken producers are giving the chickens slightly bigger cages (so the chicken can take one step) and they are calling it "free-range".  (...and the USDA allows them to do it b/c it fits their definition of "free-range".  It's maddening!)  Likewise, "cageless" chickens are packed so tightly in their coops that they can't move.  Their reaction is to peck each other's eyes out, so the practice now is to cut their beaks off.  Just because there's no cage doesn't mean it's any better to pack them in like that.  Just being aware of where your food comes from is a good first step.

Happy Animals are More Delicious:
 I can't prove this scientifically, but it is my opinion that meat and products from happy animals taste better and are better for you.  Think about it.  When you're depressed and unhappy, certain chemicals are produced in your brain.  Fear and pain also produce adrenalin and other chemicals.  It makes sense then, that this is the case with animals.  An unhappy cow or chicken would have different chemicals running through its body than a happy one.  Also, it experiences fear as it goes down the conveyor belt to its death, bathing its muscles in adrenalin and other "fear and pain" chemicals.  If you eat it, you are literally eating the animal's fear and pain.  This can't be good.  A humanely slaughtered cow (and yes, they have these) seems like a better choice to me.  Again, it's not scientific at all, but I totally believe this.  I can tell you that my truly free-range eggs tasted a lot better than the supermarket ones I used to buy.  Plus, the yolks were more orangy in color, indicating a higher level of beta carotene. 

My Number One Reason:
You could say that all of the above is just rationalization.  (You'd be right too.)  But the real reason why I continue to eat meat is because I GAINED weight when I dabbled in veganism.  Yes, I went totally vegan for 6 months a few years ago.  Just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy!  I was eating things like chips and guacamole, crackers, bread, dark chocolate, lots of grains, lots of soy, vegan brownies and candy, and tons of sugar.  I gained weight because I was eating a lot more carbs than I otherwise would have.  The carbs are what make me gain weight.  Everyone is different, and I do better (and lose more weight) when I restrict my carbs.  Also, I can't eat a lot of things due to health reasons:  no wheat, no dairy, no sugar, severly limited soy, limited grains, no nightshades, no fungi, no vinegar, no alcohol, no fruit.  (My fertility specialist told me to avoid soy.  Apparently, it can give you an estrogen imbalance and can disrupt the fertility cycle.  Yikes!)  I have to eat something!  So, meat and veggies have become my mainstay for food.

 My number one rule for myself lately is:  Eat Responsibly  (I have to admit this has been recent because I really didn't know all this stuff before.  "The Omnivore's Dilemma" has enlightened me.)

Yes, no one's perfect.  BUT - I think if we try to eat responsibly, even for a little bit, it will have a cumulative effect and it's certainly better than doing nothing.  Happy eating!  :-)


Friday, April 9, 2010


This subject is controversial in the medical community, but here it is:  Candida!  The information below is what I learned from my reading and my doctor.  Most conventional doctors do not believe that a systemic Candida infection is possible.  They confuse it with a much more serious condition which cancer patients can get.  The book "The Yeast Connection" addresses the common misconceptions made by doctors and explains this much better than I can.  In England, Candida is much more accepted in the medical community.  In fact, that's where I first heard about it.  A teacher I worked with over there ate avocados and rice cakes every day for lunch.  When I asked why, I was educated by her.  Later, I met several more people (in England) who were diagnosed with Candida by their doctors.  Over here, no one has heard of it.

After my Functional Medicine Practitioner (Dr. Cooper) did endless tests, she diagnosed me with a Candida (yeast) overgrowth in my digestive system.  (I won't go into detail about HOW they can test for this....but they can test for it.)

We all have Candida in our digestive tract and it usually isn't a problem because the "good" bacteria keeps it in check.  However, frequent doses of antibiotics kill the good bacteria and the yeast can grow out of balance.  In addition, a diet which is high in sugar and refined carbs will feed the yeast, which also helps it to grow out of proportion.

Now, I have never had a yeast infection where a lot of women have yeast infections so I didn't think I had a problem.  BUT - this diagnosis is the only thing I have come across which makes sense of all my symptoms.  I did have a lot of ear infections and strep throat infections as a child so I did take multiple rounds of antibiotics.  In addition, I am a sugar fiend!  For years, I ate a lot of sugar and sweet things.  No wonder I'm out of balance. 

My symptoms and possible causes:
  • migraine headaches - Dr. Cooper thinks my headaches are caused by digestive issues having to do with the candida.  Toxins released by the candida can cause a variety of symptoms including migraines.  Also, I lack the chromosome that helps the body detox so the toxins build up in my system.  
  • itchy skin - sometimes when I exercise, I'll start to itch all over.  It's weird.  No doctor has ever been able to figure out why.  (Am I allergic to exercise?)  Anyway, I was reading "The Yeast Connection" and it said that candida can travel through the blood stream and cause itching.
  • leaky gut syndrome - It's not what it sounds like!  Apparently, the Candida yeast shoots out runners (like a strawberry plant) which can pierce the intestinal wall.  Microscopic food particles can "leak" out which your body attacks like an invader.  Dr. Cooper found undigested gluten particles in my blood when she tested it.  The only way they can get there is through the intestinal wall.  
  • feeling sick all over - Vague symptoms and feeling sick all over is an indication of a Candida infection.  It is frustrating to go to the doctor and have them tell you "it's all in your head".
  • severe carb cravings - As I said before, Candida feeds on sugar and refined carbs.  When you don't eat these things, the Candida starts to die and it will send signals to your brain to eat sugar.  If it doesn't get it, it will make you feel terrible until you do.  For years I could never figure out why I always felt awful when I tried to eat healthily.  Then, when I ate french fries and a coke, I instantly felt better! This did not make sense to me until now.  I had to suck it up and feel terrible for 3 days until the sugar was out of my system.  (Seriously!  I felt like I had the flu for 3 whole day just because of not eating sugar and refined carbs.)  
  • infertility - Yep.  Candida can cause that too!
Dr. Cooper says there are three ways to get rid of yeast:
1.  Kill the yeast - take an antifungal like Nystatin or Diflucan
2.  Replace the yeast - take a probiotic to replace the good bacteria. (Eating yogurt is NOT enough.  Plus, there's sugar in most commercial yogurt which feeds the yeast and makes it worse.) 
3.  Stop feeding it - no sugar or anything which turns into sugar.  Not even fruit sugar!  And no alcohol either.  (Drinking alcohol is like throwing gasoline on a fire.  It just flares up.)

The above remedies are temporary.  Once the imbalance it corrected you can enjoy fruit again in moderation.  It takes a long time to get rid of Candida though.  6 months to a year in most cases.  I have been on the Candida Diet for 6 months now.  I lost 30 pounds on it.

Anyway, you can take or leave what I wrote here.  This works for me.  Here are some books that I found immensely helpful: