Tag Archives: food

Taking the Plunge – The Great GAPS Do-Over

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More than four years ago, with the help of the Gut And Psychology Syndrome diet I carried myself over the distance from merely keeping my Fibromyalgia symptoms in check to living wholly without symptoms and able to do anything that I liked.  It was a leap that I took like all the others before it from dropping the prescriptions to returning to my acupuncture appointment after my first experience was powerfully new and frightening… it was based on inspiration, an absolute need to be healthy, and shear guts, and it worked.  Better than I even hoped it would.

But, healthy is a tricky thing, or rather, the mind is a tricky thing when it comes to health.  When we are feeling healthy we are often feeling indestructible and brave. We are feeling certain of our enduring health. Like a teenager who believes in their own immortality we take risks, we test limits, we fall for lies, and we slip into the crowd.  I did just this.  After less than 6 months of pure health and freedom we took off for an epic trip around the country that would last more than a year.  The trouble began just four weeks later when we arrived in Taos, NM.  Lured in by the promise of “the most amazing pizza” we leaped off the wagon and never looked back.  From that point on we loaded our RV with healthy organic food, and ate out at every pizza joint we crossed (or could seek out) in 27 states.  There was a time in the summer of 2009 that I could eat pizza two times in a day and 7 times in a week.  Pizza.  From any kind of restaurant, from the hole in the wall sliceries to the fanciest pizzerias.  Made with god knows what kind of ingredients, and stuffed with gluten, hormones and preservatives.  Feeling strong I didn’t actually worry about it.  Then when there were no repercussions I we emboldened and moved out with wild abandon into my reckless crash back into the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet).

It was two months before I was willing to recognize that I was not feeling perfect anymore, but my psyche was all too willing to rationalize it away.  I was healthy after all… look at all the things I could do!

Four months after falling off the wagon ( a full 18 months before I should have even attempted to start adding foods back into my diet) I was having pain again and no longer woke easily in the morning.  I was heading in the wrong direction and clinging to the lies my mind gave me to make it okay.  I was living freely for the first time in memory.  I was traveling the country and wanted to experience everything with no limits, and so I did.  Here’s the kicker, the GAPS diet that I gave so little time to had given me so much healing in that short time that I was able to get away with this for more than a year, until my body succumbed to the major taxation of pregnancy and could no longer handle both things.  By the summer of 2010 I was again experiencing the full range of Fibromyalgia symptoms, with a new baby, a temporarily crippled husband and a house torn down for mold remediation and renovations, we turned again to a dependency on restaurants and easy foods.  I actually cringed when I watched myself feeding my children boxed organic cereals for breakfast, and there I met the end of my reign of health and perception of it.

I cleaned up my act.  We cut out all the major offenses from packaged and restaurant foods, to flours.  It was a definite improvement.  I felt my health return fairly quickly and regained a sense of control. But, since then I have had this lingering feeling of fatigue, sensitivity, and general poor constitution.  It follows me around at all times making me question what I am capable of… what I can get away with.  I have felt strained, anxious, weak, uncertain and afraid of the occasional flare ups.  It sucks.  It has sucked for more than two years now… that fear, uncertainty and doubt.  The hard but unlabeled limits to my health.

And so, after years of hemming and hawing about it I am going to take the plunge and begin all over again with my eye on utter and complete health… fearless freedom in my physical existence.  I have tried all things on the scale from deep disease to absolute health and every compromise in between.  I think I needed to know the limits.  I think I needed to know the truth about my choices.  I know now.  No amount of food freedom is worth living with the threatening shadow of disease.

I am going to do my best to document the whole process here.  I’ll include the good, the bad, and the (inevitably) very ugly.

Let’s go ahead and begin with where I am: The Preparing/Planning Phase.

On the intro diet of GAPS I will be limited to bone broth and boiled meats and vegetables.  Last time we had the whole family on the diet.  This time, for now, I will be going it alone.  Each week, as always, I will make a breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack menu for the family, but I will plan a different menu of broths and soups for myself.

Since I know that I have digestive issues I will be taking both a Pepsin-HCI supplement as well as a pancreatic enzyme supplement.  I have been taking Bio-Kult brand Probiotics, so I will continue with that with the goal of adding in fermented veggie juice to my broth and ultimately fermented vegetables like homemade pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut.

In addition to the probiotics, and enzymes I have tinctures of Skullcap (a nervine), St. John’s Wort (an anti-inflammatory) and California Poppy (for pain).

Over the next couple of weeks I will build up a supply of meaty bones (for soups/stocks).  Right now we make (and use) around 17 quarts (4.5 gallons) of bone stock every 7-9 days.  When I am eating in for all three meals a day and snacks I will likely need more as I will be consuming around three quarts per day.  To manage this we buy our organic bones in bulk from a local rancher and have a 9 gallon lidded stock pot to brew the 4.5 gallons of stock in.
I will also be ordering (discounted) bulk amounts of celery, onions, and garlic from the farmers at the local farmers markets.  Luckily I have a ton of carrots, beets, tomatoes and squash growing our our gardens to add to the soups and won’t need to purchase these for a few months.

I have also purchased 5 lb bags of Celtic Sea Salt and Organic Peppercorns.  I will be using these along with dried herbs to flavor broth and soups.  This week my order of 2 gallons of organic unrefined coconut oil arrived with my 5lb bags of Nettles, Raspberry Leaf, Oatstraw, Horsetail, Comfrey, Elderberries, Rosehips and others that I will outline in another post that includes their useful properties and their preparation.  Many of these provide essential vitamins and minerals in addition to their ability to ease certain symptoms.

What I am presently lacking is a supply of detox bath ingredients.  I did not do detox bathing last time, but I would really like to do it this time to ease the process.  Baths have long been my safe space, if I am feeling ill, overwhelmed, nervous, tired, angry, sad, anything, you will likely find me in the bath.  It eases all ills.  This time I will be adding things like sea salts, baking soda, and clay to the water to draw out the toxins that will be looking for a way out once I begin the healing process and cutting out the foods that supply these toxins into my body.

Right now I’m feeling a little more powerful and certain a shift that always comes when I shift from worry to action, but I am also nervous about managing the cost, dealing with the cleansing symptoms, sticking to my prescribed diet while my family eats my favorite foods, and remembering to take my supplements consistently.  I can not afford enough Fermented Cod Liver Oil to keep a consistent supply of it, so I will take it when I can and forget about it when I can’t.

For right now I will be going without the acupuncture support that I had last time, as well as the medicinal marijuana to manage the die-off and cleansing pain and panic attacks.  This cleansing and healing of the gut can have pronounced effects on the way that the world feels, looks, seems, so it can create some very intense emotions.  For this I will be turning to herbal teas, a safe space to work through intense moments and support from my husband when I need the reassurance that I will need, for even having experiential knowledge of how this works and what it feels like and how it will turn out in the end, in those intense moments it can all go out the window in a quick panic.  I want to be prepared for that.

One last thing.  I have obtained a prescription for eight  5/325 Hydrocodone from a local clinic.  These are my last stronghold against the fear that can cause me to fail to begin or to quit when the going gets tough.  The goal is to not take them at all since they will extend the cleansing, healing process, but I have them for peace of mind.  Whenever I feel that fear, that worsening (before bettering) of symptoms I will have my silent promise to myself:  You can handle this, and if you can’t you won’t suffer it.  This is a choice, not a sentence.  This is a choice, not a sentence.  Make the right one.

 

But, WHY Am I Sick?

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One of the questions that I carried around for nearly two decades was “Why am I sick”.  The medical community had nothing helpful to tell me… could be hereditary… that was the most helpful answer I got to the ‘why’.  Why then is it so much more prevalent now than it was a generation ago?  Why is it SO much more common now than it was a mere 20 years ago when I was first diagnosed?  20 years ago you had to find a specialist who actually knew what Fibromyalgia was.  Now you can stop five people on the street and at least one of them could likely tell you what it is and who they know that has it.

Why?  Well, I’m no doctor (thank god) but in my experience, and that of every other Fibro Survivor I have met, it is a case of toxic overload of the body.  Our chemical and food environments are wholly different than those of our grandparents.  In a single generation we have dramatically altered the world that we live in.  There are more than 7,000,000,000 recognized chemicals in existence, and more than 80,000 of them are in common use, though the EPA and FDA have no idea how many chemicals are in use in consumer products, what products they are in, nor what these chemicals actually do.  Thousands of new chemicals are approved for use in consumer products each year and the EPA and FDA can only request a small amount of information about these chemicals because the actual content and actions of the chemicals are protected.  80% of these new chemicals are approved within 3 weeks with no information about what they are, how they will be used, or what they might do to life on the planet or inside your body.

We rub our bodies with known carcinogens.  We clean our homes with hormonal disrupting chemicals created in a lab.  The most affordable foods available are also created in labs and factories, and then when we turn up sick, exhausted, depressed, afraid, we are treated with chemical pills created right along side our cleaners and pesticides.  To prevent illness we saturate our entire environment in antibiotics and antimicrobials.  The fundamental problem here:  We ourselves, our comprised of bacterias.  Without them our bodies cease to function, cease to be able to digest and use the food we eat, cease to be able to defend against and then get rid the toxins that we take in.

Let’s break for a moment a learn a couple of interesting and important things about our bodies:

EPIGENETICS – what are they and what does it have to do with Fibromyalgia and other environmental illness?  Here’s where we return to that oh so helpful thing we get told about Fibro, “It appears to be genetic”. Epigenetics affect how a gene (your DNA) is expressed, or “turned on or off”.  Many, many factors can affect your epigenetic tags from the food we eat to the chemicals we are exposed to.  Some epigenetic tags can be passed down from your mother or father.

Why is learning more about epigenetics important? Everything you’ve been taught about genetics is wrong! Well, it’s not completely wrong, but if you weren’t taught about epigenetics, you weren’t told the whole truth. The genes were born with do change. Our DNA is not set in stone.”  The good news is that also means that you can CHANGE yours.  In the pursuit of simplicity, let’s turn to this quick Nova video explaining Epigenetics.

“As the chemical tags that control our genes change, cells can become abnormal, triggering diseases.”

“One of the main findings of research is that epigenomes can change in fusion with what we eat, what we drink, what we smoke, and this is one of the key differences between epigentics and genetics.”

I have all the reason in the world, my health, to believe that a person can, on their own, repair their epigenetics in the same way that they sustained the damage: what we put into, onto and around our bodies in the form of food, drink, vitamins, minerals, and chemicals.

How the guts work:

All disease begins in the gut” -Hippocrates

“And the more we learn ,with all our scientific muscle, is just how right he was, just how correct he was.  When we talk about the digestive system, we have to talk about what lives there and what takes care of it.  We have to talk about the housekeepers of our second brain and our major immune system organ, and the organ which feeds us and protects us and detoxifies us.  We have to talk about gut flora.  The scientists recently, in Scandinavia, have established the fact that about 90% of all cells and all genetic material in your body is your gut flora. So we are just about 10% of our bodies, we only are a shell that holds this microscopic world inside us and we ignore that world at our peril.  It’s role of our physiology, and our psychology, and functioning of that 10% of us, is so fundamental that because we have ignored it for such a long time our health status is in a bad way at the moment.” -Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Here is Dr. Campbell-McBride on why a healing diet is fundamentally necessary to the reversal of diseases such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

What we eat, what we put into our bodies, and on them… the chemicals we choose to clean our homes, our laundry, our hands and our hair, to scent our air… the chemicals that are applied to our foods without our knowledge or labeling laws to protect us… these things are the things which are making us sick. These things are the things which we can choose to eradicate from our lives.  Knowledge is power my lovelies, and as you begin to fill your brain with all the truths of the matter of why we are sick you will find that therein lies the power that you need to manage everything that you must do to reclaim your life, your health.

So, here’s to our health!

Or as my father says, “Eat as if your life depends on it!” because, after all, you are what you eat 😉

Get Cultured!

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“Born of necessity and waste-not-want not attitude, probiotic foods have nourished the human race for thousands of years and appear in one form or another in traditional cuisines cross-globally.  Fermented foods are rich in probiotics – those beneficial bacteria that keep our immune systems and digestive tracts running smoothly and healthfully.”

Get Cultured: Probiotic Foods from a Nourished Kitchen, the first of many e-books detailing tried-and-true nourishing recipes, Get Cultured details thirteen recipes from classics like pickled jalapeños and real sauerkraut to the exotic like Vietnamese preserved limes, green salsa and cortido.

Each recipe in Get Cultured focuses on nourishing pro-biotic, naturally fermented vegetables and all the recipes are dairy-free.

>>> Check it out at nourishedkitchen.com/get-cultured/


Healing Beef Stock

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Broth, made from the bones of animals, has been consumed as a source of nourishment for humankind throughout the ages. It is a traditional remedy across cultures for the sick and weak. A classic folk treatment for colds and flu, it has also been used historically for ailments that affect connective tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract, the joints, the skin, the lungs, the muscles and the blood. Broth has fallen out of favor in most households today, probably due to the increased pace of life that has reduced home cooking in general. Far from being old-fashioned, broth (or stock) continues to be a staple in professional and gourmet cuisine, due to its unsurpassed flavor and body. It serves as the base for many recipes including soup, sauces and gravy. Broth is a valuable food and a valuable medicine, much too valuable to be forgotten or discounted in our modern times with our busy ways and jaded attitudes.  – Allison Siebecker

Throughout my healing journey broth and stock have played starring roles for everything from Fibromyalgia to the most severe stomach flu.  It is humble, unassuming, and so easily dismissed, but it is a true healer.  It took me a while not just to give credit to the benefits of broth, but to implement it as a mainstay in my daily life, but the process has been well worth it.  Not only does it help to heal the body, but it soothes the rough patches of the healing process like die-off, stomach irritation, fatigue and inflammation.  While chicken stock is considered the cream of the stock crop, it is beef stock that we prefer around here because it is easier for us to acquire great bones.  We have made stock from everything from Yak (yes, yak!) to fish and even combined poultry and beef bones.  Each family member has their favorite, but all stock can be wonderfully beautiful in flavor while it does it’s healing work.

From ediblearia.com..

“…if there’s one preparation that separates a great home cook’s from a good home cook’s food, it’s stock.  Stock is the ingredient that most distinguishes restaurant cooking from home cooking.”  -Michael Ruhlman

Here, then, is a proper yet relatively easy way to make a rich, delicious, and (most importantly) healing beef stock at home..

Beef Stock (makes about 1 quart) (informed by recipes by Ruhlman and Darina Allen)

6 cups (more-or-less) cold, filtered water, divided
2 pounds meaty beef bones (shin bones with meat attached are ideal) from a clean, non-industrial source
1/3 pound unpeeled yellow onions, roughly chopped
1/3 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1/3 pound celery, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large fresh, ripe tomato, cut into wedges
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2-3 whole cloves
1 bouquet garni of parsley stalks & leaves, fresh bay leaves and fresh thyme

Arrange the beef bones on a roasting pan or in a large cast iron skillet, allowing plenty of space between each (as you can see, I wasn’t able to find any bones with meat attached, so I rummaged around in the freezer and found an old tri-tip to add to the pan).  Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and roast until nicely browned, about 45 minutes.  Take care not to let the bones burn, or the stock will be bitter.

Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chopped vegetables, garlic and peppercorns over and around the bones.  Return the pan to the oven and roast until the vegetables are browned around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the roasted bones, vegetables, garlic and peppercorns to a clean stockpot or Dutch oven.

Pour the grease off from the roasting pan and deglaze with 1 cup of the water.  Bring the water to a boil, then use a wood utensil to scrape up the fond (the brown bits) from the bottom of the pan.  Pour the liquid over the bones and vegetables in the stock pot.

Add enough of the remaining water to cover the bones, then add the cloves and bouquet garni.

Bring the pot to a rapid boil, then lower the heat to a bare simmer.  Skim and discard any foam that may be present on the surface.

Partially cover the pot and allow to simmer for 6-8 hours, skimming and adding water as necessary to keep the bone submerged.

Turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool in the pot for 30 minutes.  Strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer to ensure a clear and clean-tasting stock.

Store stock in the refrigerator and use with 3-4 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Update – Week 1

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It’s been about a week with the aforementioned changes in place and there is a definite improvement.  I’ve been taking St. John’s Wort and Skullcap tinctures every 4-5 hours and it’s been sufficient to keep the pain in check for the past four days.

Friday was a pretty painful day and I wound up taking a dose of Vicodin in the morning while I had the kids at the park, which sucked.  I also had an 8oz decaf Americano on the way.  All in all not the best morning.  I over did it on account of the Vicodin, so that when it wore off a few hours later I felt positively wrecked.  Miserable.  I drank about a quart of water while we were out, but this was definitely not enough to counter the desert sun and wind, the dried fruits and nuts we were snacking on, or the diuretic effect of the coffee.  I had another pint of water in the car on the way home, but this was too little too late and I could feel the burning feeling that I get in my bones, eyes, mouth, nose and ears that comes of not enough water.

Yesterday was similar in the hydration department.  I tend to forget to drink enough early in the day, not noticing until I start to feel those icky signs of dehydration.  Then I have to drink a lot all at once to try to catch up and douse the rising pain.  This kept me up for an extra hour last night so that I could get in that last quart of water.  Which of course led to three trips to the bathroom in the first 90 minutes of sleep.  Again, not the best I could have done, but it was a productive day with very little pain.

Today I woke up completely free of pain after a fairly heavy night of sleep (after the initial interuptions) and feeling well enough to get ready for a trip to town straight out of bed.   I had the energy to oil my skin, braid my hair and dig through the summer clothes for a new T-shirt to wear.

I had dried fruit, nuts and tea for breakfast and followed it up with a quart of water dosed with a chlorophyll supplement called Chloroxygen, 25 drops of St. John’s Wort, and 60 drops of Echinacea.  I also took two capsules of probiotics, and a teaspoon of fermented cod liver oil.

I had a couple of slips with food this week that resulted in feeling icky.  Even though the package says “no ADDED MSG”, the organic Beef broth available here definitely has MSG derivatives in it.  I rarely have access to organic beef stew bones, so when I need beef broth we wind up buying it.  I always regret it though.  It’s not worth it and I will begin substituting veggie broth or chicken broth instead.  I always keep my vegetable scraps in a a bag in the freezer for making a no cost veggie broth and we have a beautifully rich chicken stock everytime we cook with chicken since we always buy it either whole or as bone-in pieces.

For more info on how I keep us (a family of 5)  in a totally organic, whole food diet for $400-$700 per month (depending on what I have to work with) you can check out this post. Or this one.  I’m planning to write a lot more about eating healthy on a serious budget, menu planning, dealing with food limitations, and the like.  Whenever I do, I’ll copy a link to the posts here.

Another slip I had this week was Alden’s Organic Ice Cream.  It has soy lecithin in it, which bothers me at this lowered level of health.  At healthier times when I’ve been living within the rules for months Alden’s Organic Ice Cream is an acceptable treat, but I have to limit to once or twice in a week and not repeat the treat too often in a month.

It seems complicated, but it’s rather like learning the same rules you learned as a child:  We don’t run into the road without looking, we don’t eat too much Halloween candy, ice cream for breakfast is not okay, onions and peanut butter don’t go together, etc.  Once you get it, you get it and it’s a choice whether you adhere or not.

To our health!

xoxo

Aimee