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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Acupuncture 101

A friend of mine recently told me about her mother who has had some success with acupuncture for migraines, so I decided to try it.  It can't hurt, right?  (Well, at least not as much as my headaches do!)

I made an appointment for this morning at 10:30 am.  Coincidentally, I had a migraine on the left side of my head when I woke up this morning so I almost canceled.  Then I thought, "now's my chance to see if it actually makes me feel better."  So I dragged myself over there.

The acupuncturist I saw (I'll call him Dr. Needle) seemed very professional and seemed like he knew what he was talking about.  He asked lots of questions before we began and he really listened to my answers.  Dr. Needle's questions helped me realize that I actually have had some improvement in my migraines since I started my crazy diet.  (no wheat, dairy, or sugar)  I was feeling frustrated because the frequency hasn't seemed to diminish at all.  BUT - the intensity isn't as bad and the duration isn't as long these days.  I used to spend the day crying and throwing up whenever I had a migraine.  I haven't had one like that in months.  Also, if I'm going to have a migraine, I'll always wake up with it.  It used to last until 6 or 7 at night but lately, it goes away around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  That's improvement!  I hadn't really thought about it until Dr. Needle's questioning.  It confirmed in my mind that I'm on the right track.

I have to say, having needles stuck in you doesn't really hurt at all!  It just feels like someone is flicking you lightly with their fingers.  There were two places which burned slightly when Dr. Needle put the needles in, but I told him and he adjusted them.  I didn't really feel them after that.  He put 14 needles in total:  two in each foot, two in each shin, one in each knee, two in each hand, one on either side of my neck, one in the middle of my forehead, and one the top, left side of my head (exactly where it was hurting).  The idea is to disrupt and redirect the energy flow in the body.  It sounds a little hocus-pocus but a lot of people swear by it and it has been around a long time so there must be something in it.

After the needles were in, the doctor left the room for 20 minutes.  I laid there on the table with all the needles in, with pillows under my head, legs, and each arm.  It kind of felt like I was floating on a cloud.  After 20 minutes, Dr. Needle came and removed the needles and I barely felt it at all.  He then did some shiatsu massage on my neck, shoulders, and ears - reaching the pressure points there.

 I would like to say that my headache immediately went away and I felt great, but that's not how it works.  For chronic conditions you have to go back a few times, and there is a cumulative effect.  Dr. Needle gave me some Chinese herbs to take twice a day for a month or so.  He says we're correcting an imbalance in the body so this isn't something I have to take forever. 

The pain was still there when I left, but I did notice my nausea (and other stomach issues which accompany the migraine which I won't go into) had subsided.  Also, I usually see auras and/or trailers and that had gone away too.  So there was  improvement even though the pain was still there.  The pain didn't go away until 5:00 pm, but that's about when it usually stops. 

The verdict:
I think there is something in this and I am hopeful that it will work.  My shoulders feel less tense than they did this morning.  I have another appointment for Friday and I will keep you posted.  Has anyone else had experiences (good or bad) with acupuncture?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Okay so I feel like I  have to redeem  myself after that cinnamon roll post.  Here is the final recipe from the Candida Control Cookbook that I'm going to put up this week.  Lemon Meringue Pie!  It came out great!  I have to say though, that the sweetness of this pie is different from what you're used to.  I haven't had any sugar at all for several weeks now so it tasted like heaven to me.  My sugar-eating husband was less enthusiastic.  If you can't have gluten, lactose, or sugar though this makes a pretty awesome dessert.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Yields  6 servings

1/4 cup clarified butter (ghee)
1 cup ground fresh pecans (I ground them in a food processor)

Melt butter in a small skillet; remove from heat.  Add pecans; stir.  Spoon mixture into a greased, 8-inch pie dish, pressing against sides and bottom of dish to form crust.  Fill and bake or chill according to filling instructions.
(16 carbs)

3 large eggs
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
1 cup water*
2 teaspoons alcohol-free lemon flavoring* (the recipe calls for "Bickford's" but I found another brand at Whole Foods.)
3 tablespoons 100% pure vegetable glycerine
Meringue Topping (see below)

Separate eggs.  Place yolks and arrowroot powder in to the top of a double boiler; add water and flavoring.  Using a whisk, mix over medium heat until thick.  Remove from  heat; cool.  Add glycerine; stir.  Pour into crust.  Cover with Meringue Topping.  Bake in 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until delicately brown.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving.
(7 carbs per serving) 

Meringue Topping:
2 large egg whites (I have to say, I used all 3 of the whites from the 3 yolks in the above recipe and it came out fine.)
1 tablespoon 100% pure vegetable glycerine
1/4 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla flavoring (Spice Shoppe is a good brand)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit.  Beat whites until stiff.  Fold in glycerine and vanilla.  Spoon over pie filling.  Bake 10 minutes, or until browned.

* Note:  Instead of lemon flavoring and water, it seems like you could just use lemon juice instead.  I'm going to try it next time.  Why use flavoring when you can use the natural stuff?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

I made some gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free cinnamon rolls today from the Candida Control Cookbook today.  This recipe used rice flour so I was dubious about it considering my terrible turnover experience.  The rolls came out really crumbly.  (Actually, a better name would be "Cinnamon Crumbles".)  They did taste good even though they don't look very appetizing.  Next time, I'm going to add an egg to the dough because I think it'll hold it together more.  I thought of adding one in as I was making this but I thought, "I'm sure this recipe knows what it's talking about.  I'll do it exactly as it says".  Hmmm....well, let's just say next time I'm definitely adding an egg!
 Here is the recipe as printed in the book if you want to try it for yourself:

Cinnamon and Nut Rolls 
Yields 1 dozen rolls

1 3/4 cups brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter - the lactose containing part is skimmed off and only the fat is left)
2/3 cup unsweetened soy milk (or almond milk)
1 tablespoon 100% pure vegetable glycerine (I know!)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cinnamon nut topping (see below)
1 tablespoon 100% pure vegetable glycerine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place first 7 ingredients into a large bowl; mix with pastry blender, fork, or 2 knives.  Form dough into a ball.  Place dough on a floured board.  Roll, with a floured rolling pin, into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle.  Spread topping over dough.  Roll up lengthwise; cut into 3/4-inch slices.  Butter an 8-inch round cake pan; sprinkle remaining glycerin and cinnamon on bottom of pan.  Place rolls on top.  Bake 10-15 minutes.
(30 carbs each)

Cinnamon-Nut Topping
Yields 1 topping for 1 dozen rolls

A delicious sugar-free topping for rolls.

1/4 cup of ghee or clarified butter
1/2 cup ground fresh pecans or walnuts
1 tablespoon 100% pure vegetable glycerine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or more, to taste

Melt butter in a small skillet.  Add nuts, glycerine, and cinnamon; mix.  Remove from heat; cool before spreading.
(8 carbs)

Vegetable Glycerin as a Sweetener?

I have been following the Yeast Connection diet for the past few weeks and I have been using the "Candida Control Cookbook" to help me come up with yummy, legal meals.  There are several recipes in there that call for "100% vegetable glycerine" to be used as a sweetener in muffins, pies, etc.

"What!?" I thought,  "Isn't that the stuff they use in soap? Is is safe to eat?"  Well, after researching it on the internet, it seems as though it is safe it eat.  (Although yes it IS what they use in soap as well as cosmetics and things.)  They use it as a sweetener in toothpaste and in low carb foods (like Atkins bars), so apparently the FDA has approved it for human consumption.  From what I read, it is safe for diabetics as well since it doesn't affect blood sugar.  I'm still dubious about it though.  Especially in light of my previous post.

Vegetable glycerin is derived from coconut or palm oils.  Since it does seem to be a natural substance, I decided to try it.  However, I am still following my "s" rule and won't have it during the week.  I figure that if I only have it on the weekends, in small amounts, it probably won't hurt.  Besides, on my diet there is no other allowed sweetener. 

I tried a bit by itself just to see what it tastes like.  It tastes sweet, but kind of has a weird almost bitter foretaste.  (Apparently, you don't notice it when you use it in recipes though.)  I made a "Mock Margarita" (which I have dubbed "Mockarita") with it last night and was pleasantly surprised.  It really did taste surprisingly similar to a margarita!  (Since I can't have any alcohol either, it was quite a treat.)
Here is the recipe from the Candida Control Cookbook if you want to try it for yourself: 

Mock Margarita (or Mockarita!)
makes 2 servings

5 fresh limes, scrubbed and cut in half
sea salt
1 1/2 cups crushed ice
2 tablespoons 100% pure vegetable glycerin

Using 2 large Margarita or wine glasses, rub 1/2 lime around rims.  Pour salt on a small, flat plate.  Roll rims of glasses in salt.  Squeeze juice of rest of limes into a blender, reserving 1/2 lime for garnish.  Add ice and glycerin.  Mix until foamy.  Pour beverage into glasses.  Cut reserved lime half into 2 wedges; garnish.

Note:  If you don't have a yeast problem and you want to make it alcoholic, go ahead and add a couple of shots of tequila!  I put a shot of it in my husband's and he liked it.  It's still healthier than most margarita mixes. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The First Big Step

In my opinion, the biggest thing you can do for your health is to stop eating processed food.  As chef Jamie Oliver said on his recent show, "It's not what the food is, it's what's IN the food".  He is so right.  You know those unpronounceable ingredients that we have all come to ignore?  They are killing us and are making us fat!

Dr. Mark Hyman says that our bodies don't know what to do with all the man-made chemicals in food these days.  For example, transfats are actually worse for you than animal fat.  If you eat a bit of animal fat you're body says, "I know what this is, and I know exactly what to do with it!"  (Of course, we shouldn't eat too much b/c it's still bad, but at least your body can handle it.)  With transfats (and by transfats, I mean any hydrogenated oils),  your body does not recognize it and does not know what to do with it.  It is designed not to break down (so food doesn't spoil) and so the body can't get rid of it easily.  Some of it ends up lining our arteries and some of it ends up begin stored as fat on our bodies.  Transfat is just one example.  There are literally hundreds of manufactored ingredients that don't exist in nature in processed food.  Our fat is actually saving us in some cases because the body uses it to store the toxic soup that we force it to deal with all the time.  

Most of these diabolical (as in from el diablo!) ingredients are derived from corn.  There is a plague of cheap corn in our country.  Why?  Because of government subsidies!  (Don't get me started on this.  If you want to know more, read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollen.  If you only read chapter 6, it's worth it.)  We have to do something with all this corn so basically, the food companies are slipping corn into our food without us knowing it.  We all know about high fructose corn syrup, but did you know the following ingredients can also come from corn?  citric and lactic acid, glucose, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, modified and unmodified starches, dextrins, cyclodextrins, and MSG.  (To name only a few!)  Even though these things are derived from corn, there is nothing natural about them because of the processing they go through.  By the way, corn derived ingredients started being used in processed food right about the time we all started having a rise in obesity in this country.  Coincidence?  I think not!

The good news:
The good news is that you can still have delicious food and be healthy.  I love Audrey Hepburn's quote, "I don't eat health food, I eat healthy food."  Have that hamburger or fries or milkshake, BUT - make sure they are made from real, natural ingredients.  This usually means you have to make it yourself but these days more and more places are starting to use fresh, non-processed ingredients.  (Sadly, not fast food or most restaurant chains.)  I can tell you that eating real food is not only healthier, but MUCH more tasty!  Sure it costs more time and money, but it's an investment in your health. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Migraines Just Suck!

I have not been as diligent about posting lately because I have been having an increase in migraines these past two weeks and I can't figure out why.  The main thing that motivated me to start this quest for health is the fact that I have these terrible migraine headaches.  Those of you who have them know how all about the intense pain as well as the nausea and depression that accompany them.  Also, you know how frustrating it is when people who don't have migraines think you're just being lazy.  They have no idea!

I have woken up with a headache every day for almost two weeks now.  This is upsetting because I have been REALLY careful about what I've been eating.  Some days, I can still go to work and function with the pain (after taking Maxalt), but some days (like today) I just can't get out of bed.  The pain is what I call "active" pain.  If someone hits you in the head with a baseball bat once, the pain will throb for a while and will be kind of dull.  BUT - if someone hits  you over and over again with a baseball bat, you just cannot ignore it!  The pain renews itself.  This is what a migraine is like.   The worst part is that in addition to the pain, I always lie in agony and feel supremely guilty.  I think about all the things I should be doing and all the people I'm letting down.  It's hell.

I have been working with a Functional Medical Practitioner in order to stop them.  My goal is to figure out how to NEVER have a migraine again!  The diet and supplements she has put me on have helped me lose almost 30 pounds.  This is an awesome side-effect, but that's not why I'm doing this.  Here are some things I have tried.  Some of these have kind of worked (in that they reduced the frequency of the migraines), but some of them really have not.  If you are a migraine sufferer, some of these might work for you.

Remedies I have tried:
1.  Avoiding common migraine triggers - coffee, wine (esp red), avocados, tomatoes, vinegar, chocolate, bananas.  (This did reduce the frequency of my migraines.)
2.  Seeing a Chiropractor - they can help if the migraines are due to a structural problem.  If not, then they can't.
3.  Massage - didn't seem to do anything.
4.  Aroma Therapy - also didn't seem to do anything.
5.  Giving up wheat, dairy, and sugar - seemed to  help at first, but these past two weeks have been confusing.
6.  Putting my feet in hot water - an old wives' tale someone told me about.  Didn't seem to do anything.
7.  Medication from my neurologist - the first thing he prescribed made me really depressed.  Now, he prescribes Maxalt.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  Also, he says to take Advil as soon as I feel the pain start.  If you take it before the headache "grabs hold",  sometimes  you can prevent it.  (Sometimes.)
8.  Yoga and exercise - although is makes me feel better in general, it doesn't seem to affect the migraines.
9.  Hypnotherapy - it was worth a shot!
10.  Getting glasses - they say sometimes your eyes could be the problem.  (It wasn't with me.)
11.  Getting a special TMJ mouth splint that I wear at night - this helped reduce the frequency.  (I can tell a difference if I forget to wear it.)
12.  Ultrabath - this does seem to reduce the frequency and can ease symptoms sometimes.

As you can see, I have tried several things.  I'm not just sitting around being a victim here!
Here are some things I'm going to try this week:

1.  Acupuncture - a friend told me her mom is having some success with this for migraines.
2.  Get hormones tested - apparently, migraines can be hormonal.  Maybe mine are out of whack.
3.  See my Functional Medical Practitioner again.

If I figure out a cure, I will definitely let  you know.  I would love to hear from other migraine sufferers.  Are there any remedies, which you have tried, that work?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's so bad about gluten anyway?

I'm still recovering from a busy week so I'm only going to share a blog that I find helpful.  Here is  Dr. Mark Hyman's blog.  I like this post entitled, "Allergies: are they making you fat?"

Click here to see an article by him about why gluten may be a problem for you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Neti Pot Your Way to Good Sinus Health

Neti Pots are becoming more and more mainstream these days.  A few years back, Dr. Oz recommended them on the Oprah show and more people now than ever use them in this country.  I started using one years before Dr. Oz said anything and before most people knew what they were.

A neti pot is a little ceramic container with a spout that you fill with salt water and pour through one side of your nose.  The water comes out the other side.  This sounds horrific, but it really is more effective than most sinus medications.  If you have chronic sinus issues, this may be for you.  I have found it very helpful.  In addition to giving up dairy, this has really made a big difference to my sinuses.  I used to get at least 2 sinus infections every year (sometimes, up to 4!) and now I don't get them at all.  It makes sense because the neti pot washes the irritants away.  The first time I used it, all this black stuff came out.  I think it was years of black eyeliner built up in my sinuses.  Eek! 

Are there any other neti pot believers out there?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Good, Lowfat Way to Cook Chicken

Years ago when I was about to get married, I was bamboozled into going to a cooking demonstration.  They made it seem like I had won a prize and I would get a free vacation just by going to the thing.  Also, they said there would be free food there.  (Silly me, I believed them.)

Anyway, I dragged a friend and my mom to this thing and it turned out to be a sales tactic for really expensive pots and pans.  We sat through the demo, got a bite of chicken, then got the hard-sell before they gave us our coupon for a free two-nights stay in any motel 6 in the country.  (Hardly a vacation!)

I did not buy any pots or pans from them.  I was mad at them for wasting my time!  The one useful thing I got from this is I learned a really good way to cook chicken breasts with no oil.

Here is the technique:
Heat up a frying pan to medium heat.  Place the chicken breasts in the pan.  (however many will fit.  I usually do 4 at a time.)  The chicken breasts will stick to the pan.  Salt the chicken and put on whatever spices you want.  (I use garlic and oregano).  Cover with a lid.  As the chicken cooks, the fat will melt which will unstick the chicken from the pan.  When you are able to lift them, turn them over.  Again, they will stick.  Cover and cook.  When they unstick, that means they are done.
They really do come out good.  Nice and juicy and not dry at all.  (I guess the lid keeps in the moisture.)

The pot and pan people told us that you could do this technique with ONLY their pots and pans.  Whatever!  I tried it at home with my own pan  and it worked great.  I like to serve this with roasted asparagus and/or creamed spinach.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Favorite Snacks

I never think about foods I can't have.  This is a useful strategy for me because thinking about the Cheetos, Oreos, Twinkies, etc. that I'll never eat again just makes me so depressed.  Luckily, I have found some new snacks that I love!  It makes me happy to focus on these things.  I TOTALLY enjoy these snacks:

  • 1/2 avocado spread on 2 rice cakes
  • rice crackers and almond butter (or macadamia butter or tahini)
  • baby carrots and black bean hummus
  • Flax-seed crackers
  • home-made yogurt, topped with chopped pecans
  • a handful of nuts (like hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds)
  • rice (or corn) chips with guacamole
  • millet cereal with soymilk or almond milk
I usually have a handful of nuts as a mid-morning snack, and then one of the other snacks with a cup of green tea in the afternoon.  It's not a low-fat diet that I'm on, but the fats I do eat are healthy and good! 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Detox Bath

One thing I do every night which makes me feel awesome is the "Ultrabath"  (as described by Dr. Hyman in his book, "The Ultramind Solution").

Add the following to your bath at night:
- 4 handfuls of Epsom salts (about 2 cups)
- 2 handfuls of baking soda (about 1 cup)
- 10 drops of lavendar oil

Soak for at least 20 minutes in water as hot as you can stand (to encourage sweating). 

This ultrabath will pull toxins out of your body through your skin.  (It is the largest organ of your body, after all!)  Also, the magnesium content of the soda relaxes your muscles and helps you to sleep better.  The lavendar oil is optional, but I find it relaxing.  (I suppose you could use a different kind of essential oil if you like.)

Why I do it:
-My shoulders are always tight and I feel like they are "up in my ears" all the time.  Soaking in this solution relaxes my shoulders and brings them down to earth. 
-I'm one of these people that always feels cold and this bath helps me feel warm for several hours afterwards. 
-Dr. Cooper told me to take an ultrabath once a week, but I do it every night.  If I don't take an ultrabath at night, I feel it the next morning!  I guess the toxins build up and make me feel sluggish and tired and headachy.  It's enough of a difference that I have made this my nightly ritual.
-I fall asleep more easily and have more restful sleep after I have my ultrabath.

Try it!  You'll like it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rotating Menus

Another tip for finding allergies?  Rotate your menus!  What I mean by this is have a set menu for each day of the week and stick to it for several weeks.  For instance, I always eat nuts as a snack but on Mondays it's Brazil nuts, Tuesday is almonds, Wednesday is pumpkin seeds, Thursday is walnuts, Friday is sunflower seeds, Saturday is pecans, and Sunday is hazelnuts.  (Yeah, it was expensive to buy all these raw nuts at once, but  they have lasted several months now.  I keep them in the fridge.)  I write out my menus for the week and keep it on the fridge.  That way, I never have to guess what I'm eating and it helps me when I'm making the grocery list too. 

I also rotate my meats, veggies, and grains.  Once  you write out your whole menu, it's not hard to implement it.  There is a book called "If This is Tuesday, It Must Be Chicken".  I haven't read it, but I was told it has some helpful ideas about how to rotate your food.

The benefit of doing this is that it helps you identify other, less-common food sensitivities you might have.  For instance, this is how I found out I had a problem with chickpeas.  I eat Greek food every Friday for lunch (as a treat), and I used to eat the hummus with my meal.  Every Saturday morning, I had a splitting headache and had to be in bed for most of the day.  (Boooo!)  I knew it had to be something I was eating on Friday so I replaced one thing at a time.  Once I stopped eating hummus, bingo!  No Saturday headache! 

For the past 3 weeks, I have been having a headache every Tuesday morning.  (Today was no exception.)  I haven't figured out what I'm eating on Monday that causes it, but I suspect Brazil nuts (which is sad because I LOVE them!)  Next Monday, I'm going to eat macadamia nuts instead and see what happens.

Oh, I forgot to mention to keep a food journal.  I write down what I eat in one column, and how I felt in another column right next to it.  (I do this during the commercial breaks when I'm watching TV at night.)  That way, you can see what works and what doesn't.  I found that eating salmon and broccoli makes me feel fantastic while eating corn makes me feel bloaty. 

I know this is a lot of trouble, but it can be done and it's not forever.  I think of it as an investment.  Invest some time now, so you can feel good and focus on other, more fun things later!  Of course, if you feel okay all the time, you probably don't need to do this.  I'm just SO tired of feeling like crap all the time and am really motivated to do all this stuff!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wheat, dairy, and sugar

After giving up the "bad stuff", and adding in the "good stuff", the next step on my journey was to figure out if I had any allegies or food sensitivities.  There's a difference between an accute allergy, in which you have immediate symptoms, and a sensitivity in which the symptoms may appear later on.  (As much as 3 days later sometimes.) You may not be able to pinpoint certain foods, especially if you eat them every day.  It is estimated that 75% of the population may have a gluten and/or dairy intolerance and not even know it!  The most common allergens are:  wheat, dairy, eggs, citrus, nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers). 

What's the best way to find out if you have these intolerances?  Give all of them up for 2 weeks.  Also, you must get off of all the substances you're addicted to (in my case, sugar and caffiene).  Then, eat a lot of wheat on one day.  Wait 3 days.  You'll be able to tell if you have a problem with wheat.  Then, do the same thing with dairy, then eggs, then citrus, and so on.  It seems like a daunting task, but I did it even while I was working full-time.  It just takes some advance planning and you have to buy all of your food on the weekends.

How I did it:
After you get used to cooking your own food, it's much easier to replace dairy and wheat containing foods with alternative ingredients.  I would plan my whole week's worth of food.  That way, there was no second-guessing and I didn't have to think about it when I got busy during the week.

I did NOT give up all of these at once!  There's no way I could've stayed on it if I had. 

1.  First, I gave up dairy.  This wasn't that hard because I don't drink much milk anyway and I like the taste of soymilk or almond milk on my cereal.  (Cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream were harder, but they have such good alternatives these days!  Soy cheese, coconut milk yogurt and ice-cream, etc.)

2.  After 3 days, I gave up wheat (and all gluten-containing products).  Wheat also wasn't that hard because they make perfectly good rice bread and other gluten-free things.  I found some super yummy gluten-free ginger snaps!  (I was still eating sugar at this point.)

3.  Eggs, citrus, and nightshades were a little harder, but I found ways around them.

4.  After another 3 days, I gave up caffiene.  I got some decaf green tea and had it with soymilk in the morning.  This actually grew on me and now it is my drink of choice!  Caffiene wasn't as hard to give up as I thought it would be.  I only had a slight headache for 1 day and then I was fine.

5.  Sugar was the LAST thing I gave up, and by far was the hardest.  For 3 whole days, I felt like I had the flu!  I even had to take 2 days off of work I felt so bad.  (severe headache, sweats followed by chills, achy joints, crazy nightmares, nausea, depression, etc.)  I had no idea that sugar could do all this!  I am certain that sugar is an addictive substance for me.  These were withdrawal symptoms.  Before, I never could get through a whole day without sugar in some form (especially in the afternoons).

After staying off all of these for two weeks, I added them back in one at a time to see where I had problems.  (Not the sugar though.  I did not want to go through those withdrawal symptoms again!)

My Food Sensitivities:
1.  Wheat - wheat makes me SUPER sleepy!  I used to have to have a nap in the afternoons.  Sometimes, I literally could not keep my eyes open.  (Then, I'd have to have a Coke to wake up.)  When I don't eat wheat, I do not get sleepy during the day, I do not require a nap, and I don't crave Coke or sweets.

2.  Dairy - If I slip up and eat it, I get digestive issues and feel bloaty and fat.  While in Greece this past Christmas, I ate some Saganaki and had a terrible migraine within an hour after eating it.  (Saganaki is cheese, usually Haloumi, fried in olive oil until it gets crusty.  It's probably the best tasting thing on the planet so of course I strayed and ate it!)  Cheese is definitely off-limits for me.

3.  Sugar - I need to stay off of it.  I'm like an alcoholic, but with sugar.  If I have even a little, it unleashes the cookie monster inside of me and I cannot stop!  Also, I absolutely cannot lose weight as long as I eat sugar, even if I eat very few calories.  These days, I eat a lot more calories than I did when I was on Weight Watchers, but none of them are from sugar.  (I lost maybe 5 pounds with WW and gained them right back even though I never went above my allotted points!)

4.  Nightshades - I feel bad after eating tomatoes (they give me canker sores), eggplant (makes me feels sick and tired), and peppers (give me digestive issues).  Sometimes, I treat myself and have sauteed eggplant, but I take enzymes first which help my body deal with it.

I hope this has inspired you to do this for yourself and has helped to convince you that it IS possible!  (If I had told myself I'd be doing this before I started, I would've absolutely rolled my eyes at myself!)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Party Food Ideas for the Dietarily Challenged

What can you serve at a party that's gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free that your guests will also want to eat?  That was my challenge for today since I am hosting an Oscar party tomorrow night.  I think I did okay!  (Thank goodness for Whole Foods!)

Here are some things I came up with:

1.  Rice crust, no cheese veggie pizza

I also got some regular pizzas for the other guests but this pizza is delicious enough to serve anyone.  You don't miss the cheese (well, almost) because the caramelized onions make it taste so good!  It's also sugar free because they use agave syrup instead of sugar in the crust.  (It's not yeast free however, but I suppose I can bend the rules a little bit for a party.)

2.  Popcorn
I found these cute little popcorn bags at a party supply store and am planning on serving popcorn in them.  

3.  Black bean hummous and guacamole are great party foods, served with some chips and baby carrots for dipping.  These rice chips taste delicious! 

Also, you can't go wrong with Terra chips.  They look beautiful (like potpourie!) and taste good too!

4.  Olives - I found some that have no vinegar in them.  (They are in salt water and citric acid instead.)  Stuffed with garlic and jalapeno peppers, they are sure to be a hit!

5.  Roasted nuts -  Get an assortment of raw nuts (brazil nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, are my favs) and drizzle them with a little olive oil.  Then, you can sprinkle them with whatever spice you want (curry, paprika, or cinnamon) and roast on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Yum!

5.  And for bean brownie sundaes!  I love this black bean brownie recipe.  (I promise, you'll never taste the  black beans!)  The only modification I make is that I use olive oil instead of butter.  (This makes it dairy free and it's still super  yummy!)  I top the brownies with some sugar-free coconut milk ice-cream.  This is my favorite (it's the Cherry Amaretto flavor):

Any other fabulous party food ideas out there?

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Visit to the Functional Medicine Practitioner

My saga continues......

So, I followed Dr. Hyman's book, "The Ultramind Solution" like the bible.  I even did his "Ultra Simple Diet" (which is anything but simple!)  Taking the supplements he recommends and following his advice did help me to get off of sugar which is something I've never been able to do before.  However, I still felt rotten!  I kept reading more and more of his books, trying to find answers.  Every week, I thought I had a new issue and would buy corresponding supplements.  (By the way -  do NOT take any of the amino acids he recommends unless a doctor tells you that you need them!  I had self-diagnosed and was taking several different amino acids which threw my levels way off.)  Finally, I decided I needed help from someone who knew what they were doing!

I went to see a Functional Medicine Practitioner.  (I sometimes call her a "holistic doctor" although she's not, because people don't know what a Functional Medicine Practitioner is.)  A Functional Medicine Practitioner is a doctor who looks at how your body is functioning before they prescribe things in order to help the body do its job.  Anyway, I found one in my area by going to the Functional Medicine site.   I'll call her Dr. Cooper.  Dr. Cooper is also a conventionally-trained doctor.  She uses both conventional and alternative medicine  (whichever one she thinks will be more effective for your specific problems, or a combination of both).

The thing I liked most about Dr. Cooper is that she listened!  How many times have we gone to see a doctor and he/she is writing a prescription before you even finish telling them what's wrong?  When you go for a first-time visit with Dr. Cooper however, she schedules 4 hours of time for you.  I had no idea what would take so long, but she was very thorough in her questioning, plus she had her staff do lots of tests.  What a Functional Medical Practitioner does is look at your body, test your blood, etc. to see where there are imbalances BEFORE they prescribe things.

Here's what I found out on my initial visit:
 1.  There is Candida Yeast in my blood.  I saw it!  They put a drop of your blood under the microscope and let you see it too as they explain what you're seeing.  My blood cells were beautiful!  It's really cool to see your own blood cells on a screen.  I even saw a white blood cell doing its thing.  The Dr. said, "Isn't it cute?  It thinks it's still in your body and it's protecting you!"  There were some dark chunks which the cells kept running into and were slowed down by.  I asked "what is this?"  and they told me "that's yeast".  This made me really want to give my cells what they need and to get rid of the yeast which was slowing them down.  Dr. Cooper prescribed "Diflucan" to kill the yeast.
(Note:  The only way yeast can get into your bloodstream is if there's an overgrowth in your digestive tract (we all have some Candida in our gut, but sometimes it can get out of hand).  Runners from the yeast organism can puncture your gut and that's how it gets into your blood.   Most conventional doctors in this country don't even believe in it.  More on this later.)

2.  My body was craving B vitamins.  My levels of both B and D were very low.

3.  My hormones were out of whack.  (Not surprising considering how much estrogen I had to inject into my body when I was doing fertility treatments.)  Dr. Cooper recommended that I use a natural, plant-based Progesterone Cream called "Femarone".  You can get it without a prescription and you just rub it on your belly every day on certain days during your cycle.  (Note:  Do NOT take this or any medication I mention without the advise and supervision of your doctor.  I'm only documenting my own progress here, not telling you what you should take.)

4.  I had high amounts of "bad" bacteria in my gut.  Dr.  Cooper recommended the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and recommended the book, "Breaking the Vicious Cycle" by Elaine Gottschall.  (From what I understand, Celiacs, Crohn's Disease, and IBS patients benefit from this diet as well.)

5.  I have problems metabolizing sugar.  This is not surprising since Diabetes runs in my family.  I don't have it (and am not even pre-diabetic), but there's an issue there.  Dr. Cooper told me to take "MetaglycemX" twice a day to help my body deal with sugars.

The above things were just what I found out on my first visit.  To find out more in depth what was going on with my body, they took a lot of blood and scheduled me for a stool test and urinalysis.  (Don't worry, I won't go into detail about that!) 

If you have health issues like I did (and do), a Functional Medicine Practitioner may be just what the doctor ordered!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Blood

This is what my blood looked like about 5 months ago.  I visited a "Functional Medicine Practitioner".   (More on this visit coming soon!)  They put a drop of my blood under a microscope, then showed it to me on a computer screen.  This is a photo of the print-out they sent me home with: 
As you can see, my blood is relatively healthy.  The only problem is that some of the cells are not quite perfectly round.  Can you see the slightly misshapen ones?  Dr. Cooper says that blood cells function more efficiently when they are perfectly round and that taking fish oil is one thing that can help with this.

The globby-looking things are white-blood cells (except for in the bottom right picture).  I could actually see them moving!  The really bright thing is something that a white blood cell sends out to help fight disease.  (I forget what she said this was called.  Cyto-something or other?  Can a medical friend help me out here?)  This is all what it's supposed to do. 

In the picture on the bottom left, there are two cells that are misshapen  because they are running into something dark.  Do you see this?  I was told that this is yeast!  (You can see a smaller piece on the right of the pic as well.)  The poor cells were trying to do their job even though the yeast was getting in their way.  I kinda felt sorry for them.  I have to say, if you need motivation to eat right, have someone show you your blood cells.  Just seeing them makes you want to give them what they need!

Below is a slightly clearer picture: 

The bottom two rows are additional pictures which were taken in negative. They did this because you can see the yeast more easily. The yeast looks similar to the white blood cells in these pictures, but if you saw them live on the screen you can totally tell the difference. The white blood cells move and change shape. The yeast is darker and it floats around without changing shape.  What  you see in these negative images is yeast.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Do I Eat in a Restaurant?

Sometimes, you just gotta go to a restaurant.  Here are some safe options that work for me:

1.  Chinese Food - The big ironic thing is that Chinese food got slammed for having MSG in it several years ago.  Since then, most Chinese restaurants have cleaned up their act and proudly boast "No MSG" on their signs.  Steamed rice with stir-fried veggies with shrimp or chicken is the way to go.  (Avoid the fried foods and sweet sauces.)

2.  Greek/Lebanese Food - Lots of choice here!  I like to get the chicken shwarma meat with several vegetable side dishes.  (Sauteed eggplant, pan-fried cauliflower, and mustard greens are my favs.)  Other good options:
-stuffed grape leaves (get them to hold the yogurt sauce though)
-mujadrah (but only if it's with lentils and rice.  Not the cracked wheat!)
-stuffed bell peppers or squash
-any kind of meat with rice pilaf
-hummous and veggies (avoid the pita bread)
-lentil soup

3.  Japanese (*Note:  I am reconsidering this option for me b/c of the MSG content from seaweed.  Avoid the seaweed-containing items if you think you have trouble with it.) - miso soup, edamame, seaweed salad, sushi rolls (yes, I know they put a bit of sugar in the rice, but I figure it's not terrible to have it as a treat every now and then), sashimi, salmon, scallops, cucumber salad, etc.
Avoid the tempura.

4.  Thai - I love Tom Yum soup!  (lemongrass soup with shrimp and mushrooms)  Also, I usually get the Pad Thai because it's made with rice noodles.  Again, lots of options here.

5.  Indian Food - Love it!  You can get poppadoms (like crackers but made with chickpea flour), breads made with lentil flour, and many variations of meat, veggies, and rice.  Avoid the naan breads, fried foods, and cream sauces, but you'll still be spoiled for choice.   

6.  Any restaurant will have some kind of fish with vegetables.  That's my default option.  Also, steak-houses are good (if you're non-vegetarian).

Again, if you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Non-Perfect Health Day

You know how I said I'm feeling tons better but not perfect these days?  Well, today was a non-perfect day for sure.  I woke up with a headache in the middle of my forehead and nausea.  It wasn't a full-blown migraine, but it was still miserable.  Sometimes, taking a Maxalt works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Today it didn't.  I still was able to go to work and function, but it wasn't fun.  (Especially when teaching kids with drums!)

Do you know how frustrating it is to make such an effort to make all these changes and still have these symptoms?  Also, I'm not really sure what caused it so I don't know how to prevent it the next time.  The only two things I can come up with are the change in weather and the Tamari (a type of soy sauce) I had in my food last night.

We had a drastic weather change last night.  It suddenly got really wet and cold.  I find my symptoms worsen whenever it rains and when there is high barometric pressure.  I hate this because there's really not a lot I can do about it!

It could be the Tamari.  (Which is sad because I love it!)  There is some MSG in Tamari, but I tell myself it's okay because it's a natural form and it's not too concentrated.  However, maybe it isn't okay!  For dinner last night, I made steak with broccoli and sauteed mushrooms.  I love putting Tamari in the mushrooms to give them some flavor.  I suspect it may have been this because I had leftovers for lunch today and immediately felt worse.  Next time, I guess I'll just use garlic and olive oil.  

This just goes to show that I have not figured out all the answers yet and am still on the journey.  My goal is to stop these symptoms and never have a headache with nausea again!

Pictures of Progress

Here are some pictures of me which help to show my progress so far.

June 2009 - At my heaviest (195 lbs.):

November 14, 2009 - 175 lbs:        Today, (March 2, 2010) - 168 lbs:

As you can see, I've still got a long way to go but it's a start.  For my height (5'3"), I should be around 130 or so.  I did fall off the wagon around Christmas and ate wheat, dairy, and sugar so that did slow down my progress.  However, I'm back on now with a vengeance!

Monday, March 1, 2010

MSG Update

A friend of mine found this article about MSG.  I'm glad she did because it has some good information and also points out that not everyone has a problem with it.  I know that I do because I get distinctive symptoms every time I eat it.  I would suggest giving it up for two weeks for so, then try adding it back and see what happens.  I think the natural form that comes from seaweed is probably not too harmful.  However, highly processed and concentrated forms of it should be avoided in my opinion.

Ideas for Lunch on the Go

Since my quest for health led me to do away with fast and pre-packaged food, I had to come up with some easy and quick ideas for lunch.  I work full-time, so they had to be portable as well.  An insulated lunch box with an ice-pack makes life easier.  Also, when I can, I go ahead and put leftovers from supper into a tupperware to have for lunch the next day.

Here are some ideas:

1.  Salmon and broccoli:
-a can of salmon (they have "pop-top" ones these days)
-a half of a lemon
-frozen broccoli with sea salt and oregano

(Note:  Frozen veggies are life savers!  No need to prep.  I put them in a container and put them in my lunch box.  They keep the food cold as they slowly melt.  By lunch time, they've thawed out and you only need a minute to heat them up.  Genius!)

2.  Hummous and avocado sandwich with tomato and cucumber on rice bread.  I like to have grapes and carrot sticks with it.

3.  Soup  (You can either make it and freeze it into 1 serving portions, or get healthy canned soup.  Make sure there are no preservative or MSG though.  I like Amy's soups.) 

4.  Salad:
-whatever greens and veggies you want
-whatever protein you want (beans, sardines, turkey, nuts, hard-boiled egg, etc.)
-dress with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and oregano

After lunch, I like have hot tea with either soy or almond milk.  I bring it to work with me in a thermos.  Sometimes I have it with some nuts.  I'm not going to say it's as good as a dessert, but it eliminates my craving for one!

(Note:  Actually, nuts are another life-saver!  I always have a small container of them on hand in case I get hungry.  It saves me from caving in and eating something I shouldn't.  Brazil nuts have really grown on me lately.)

Any other ideas out there?  I'm all ears!