Saturday, August 19, 2017

"That's a Pretty Soup"

That's what my daughter said as I sat down with my warmed leftover poaching liquid and vegetables from the night before.  I'd poached some lovely wild caught Copper River Salmon in bone broth, sauteed onions, garlic, peppers and coconut milk the night before.  It made a delicious, easy soup the next day with some fresh greens added.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Another Great Recipe

"Moroccan Chicken" from Mickey Trescott's and Angie Alt's Autoimmune Wellness Handbook was a big hit, even with my husband, who's not so careful about what he eats.  Piquant and salty meets warm and sweet in this dish.  I had mine over a pile of greens and he had his over pasta. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Recent Stew

Based upon a seafood stew in Dr. Wahls' book, this is always so easy and satisfying!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Potato Without a Cause

Sometimes my impulse groceries get ahead of me before I formulate a plan.  Months ago a sweet potato began enthusiastically sprouting on my counter and I enjoyed watching its progress instead of eating it.  When it began forming lovely, heart-shaped leaves, I began rooting for the root, so I put the whole potato in a pot.  It's so happy now!

The vines are splaying everywhere, so I got the bright idea to eat them.  They are wonderful! I harvest sweet potato leaves almost every day and it seems they grow back more quickly than I can eat them.  I saute them in coconut oil along with onions, mushrooms, a few kale leaves, fresh cherry tomatoes from my garden and handfuls of fresh herbs -- whatever the garden has most of.  I usually add a shake of cumin and sea salt, and maybe some nutritional yeast.  This happy potato is the gift that keeps on giving -- I'm so glad I didn't eat it!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Double Basil Fried Rice

This isn't the most Wahls-compliant meal, but it could be worse.  It's an example of making the most of what I have.

I've not had a car for a few days, so I've had to get creative with what's left in the larder.  My family decided to order Thai food the other night, and while I'd normally prefer to make my own food, my crisper had slim pickins so I ordered Basil Fried Rice for myself.

To make it better, I sauteed sweet potato leaves, kale, mushrooms and garlic, then stirred it into the rice.  I finished it with lots of fresh, raw green and purple basil from my garden.  I definitely made the most of that takeout carton.  It was delicious and fed me for 3 meals!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Something Fresh

After days of healthy fats, I started to crave something fresh and raw.  This chopped salad came together so quickly and was sooo delicious!  I have a nifty little chopping gadget that works with a pull cord, and it made short work of a carrot and two celery stalks.  I piled that on a bed of arugula then roughly chopped a bunch of radishes and kalamata olives by hand.  I spent one minute making a fresh dressing in the blender:  dijon mustard, garlic salt, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper:  perfect!  That's a large dinner plate and it probably holds 3-4 Wahls' cups, which went a long way toward helping me reach my 9 that day.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not

Striving for plenty of 9-cups-of-veg days full of healthy proteins and fats, I'm always looking for opportunities to squeeze in what I need.
Last night I poached a couple of Vital Choice Wild King Salmon fillets in coconut milk and wine, with a sliced onion and a cup of sliced mushrooms.  The fish was so delicious, but I was left with a panful of omega-3 infused broth.  Realizing it was a wonderful soup-starter for the next day, after dinner I saved it in the fridge.

This morning for breakfast, I warmed the broth and vegetables along with some sliced bok choy and carrots, and enriched it with bone broth and garlic.  This "poaching liquid veggie soup" was a wonderful way to start the day, and get a head start on today's 9!

[Note:  I receive no compensation from Vital Choice.  The company was recommended by my Functional Medicine Physician and I am very impressed with them.  The fish is amazing, and it's good to share what works.]

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Healing Foods

Nothing seems more strengthening than liver and onions.  I love to cook organic chicken livers with onions, coconut oil, a little bit of balsamic vinegar and lots of lemon juice. This is so crave-worthy and I can't get enough of it. Lately, I've also enjoyed sauteing radishes along with my greens like this ruby chard.  Delish!

Monday, May 8, 2017

I'm Upset About Gadolinium

We spoonies have to trust our doctors.  They have what we don’t – years of training, access to diagnostic clues and the latest treatment options.  Trusted physicians are crucial to our care.  I do trust my physicians and am so grateful for them, but I no longer trust elements of medical research, or the FDA.

When I was diagnosed with MS in 1996 I did everything my doctors told me.  I got regular MRI’s and I took medications that ruined my quality of life, with no evidence of benefit.  After the first few years, I finally learned balance, and began honoring my intuition as much as the doctors’ advice.  I became a partner in my treatment and, along with my physicians, made wiser decisions about medications and lifestyle.  But I never questioned the MRI.  It's considered the gold standard in tracking the progress of neurological disease, and every professional I’d ever come across, over 21 years and in 4 States where we’ve lived, valued this view into my brain and spine.  Heck – I valued it too.

At my last MRI, the technician paused halfway through, as always, to administer the contrast agent.  I was given a consent form to sign, once again, before the vial of red liquid was injected into my vein.  For the first time ever, I wondered about it.  I asked the technician what it was. 

“Gadolinium is a very rare earth element, a heavy metal that is only found in one place on earth and is very expensive,” she said.

[Heavy metal.  That taste in my mouth – that’s what it was – metal.]

“I taste it, “ I said, “I guess I should drink a lot of water today to wash it through?”

“Yes, that’ll help, it’ll be fine,” she said.

That was two years ago.  It isn’t fine.

I scheduled my next MRI recently, but then I remembered I’d meant to find out more about gadolinium.  I did some cursory online research.  Very quickly I learned that deposits of the heavy metal remain in our systems.  The National Institutes of Health believed at first that patients with renal failure (kidney issues) were most at risk, but then they realized that all recipients of gadolinium are prone to lingering deposits in our brains.  The FDA opened an inquiry into “gadolinium poisoning” in 2015, but they’re not in much of a hurry to finish.  They are also not concerned with informing the Neurological practitioner community in the meantime.  My neurologist was grateful for my research and said she had never heard of the issue.  The NIH article stated that anyone who has received more than 6 lifetime doses is particularly vulnerable to gadolinium poisoning.  I’ve had at least double that amount.  The metal settles in the detate nucleus and the globus pallidus of the brain.  Memory, cognition and gross motor skills are affected (which also happen to be classic MS symptoms).  Further, the gadolinium sets us up for zinc toxicity.  I have no idea if my symptoms are really caused by MS or if it’s just the heavy metals in my brain.

My neurologist was happy to re-write my MRI order, with no contrast.  She explained the contrast only helped to show active lesions anyway.  Symptomatically, it’s clear to me when my lesions are active, so there’s never really been a need for the contrast.  My neurologist said she can still get a lot of information from an MRI with no contrast.


I’m angry that anyone ever thought putting heavy metals into sick people is a good idea.  I’m angry the FDA doesn’t care enough to put their relationship with big pharma aside in order to prioritize our health.  I’m angry they don’t bother to inform our caregivers that we’re being poisoned.  I’m angry at myself for my blind trust in the system, and for failing to read every word on the forms I’ve been signing all these years.  Please read the fine print, everyone.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Oh Snap!

Here's another one.  This smoothie tastes exactly like a ginger snap!  Where my Carrot Cake-, and Snickerdoodle Smoothies have tastes reminiscent of those popular sweets, this one is an exact match, while still providing a nutritional punch.  Seriously -- no hyperbole.  When I talk about a ginger snap, I mean the kind with the spicy, natural ginger and the deep malty base from molasses.  The kind of cookie that leaves a little warmth on your tongue after you've swallowed it.  That's what this smoothie delivers.

I normally eschew sugar in all its forms, but a little organic molasses is key to achieving the right flavor here.  It's important to remember that molasses has a much lower glycemic load than other sugars, and studies have shown that its sugars are delivered more slowly through digestion.  Also keep in mind that the whole raw vegetables, and addition of MCT oil and other healthy fats in this recipe further slow the delivery of sugars.  Obviously individual health concerns such as diabetes or cancer warrant consultation with a doctor before adding sugar of any kind, if you avoid it for health reasons.  I also won't vouch for the ketogenic effect of this smoothie, since I'm not a doctor, so measure your ketones if you track that sort of thing, but the benefits of a tablespoon of molasses may outweigh some of the detriments.  In addition to the better glycemic delivery of molasses, it provides many crucial nutrients such as potassium, copper, B vitamins (particularly B6), selenium, magnesium, calcium and iron.  Many spoonies suffer from anemia in addition to their other chronic illnesses.  Some of us don't adequately absorb B vitamins and iron, which are crucial for building red blood cells.  Molasses may help with that.  As you Wahls Warriors already know, nutrients from whole, organic foods are assimilated much more efficiently than from supplements.  This is now, officially, my favorite smoothie of all time!  Here's the recipe:

Ginger Snap Smoothie

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 granny smith apple
2 large carrots
1 Tbsp organic molasses
1 tsp MCT oil
1-2 Tbsp almond butter
black pepper 1 grind
cinnamon 1 shake
nutmeg 1 shake
dry ginger 1 shake
ice
2 cups water
Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix.
Makes about 3 cups, and counts as 2 Wahls' veggie portions.

As with all smoothies, the amounts of these ingredients are customizable.  You could use less of the fresh and dry gingers if you're not a rabid fan of the spice the way I am, but I do think that including both types of ginger, at least a little of each, is important for the depth of flavor.  With the sweetness of the carrots, I intuitively knew that this would be sweeter than my usual smoothies once I added the molasses.  It was exactly to my taste.  If you want a sweeter smoothie, the addition of one pitted date would be lovely.  I hope you enjoy this smoothie as much as I did!

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Snickerdoodle Smoothie!


At first glance, it may not look like much until you see its inner cookie.  Y'all -- it tastes like a SNICKERDOODLE!  This surprise was completely serendipitous, as I continue to experiment with my favorites.

Here's the Recipe:

Snickerdoodle Smoothie

1 granny smith apple
1 large yellow carrot
1 large rib celery
1 Tbsp coconut milk
1 Tbsp. almond butter
raisins to taste -- I used about 7 or 8
nutmeg to taste
cinnamon to taste
dry ginger to taste
fresh black pepper to taste
a few cubes of ice
2 cups of water

Blend in a Vitamix until smooth.  Makes 3 cups

The apple lends a little sweetness, but most of the sweet comes from the raisins.  It would be easy to overdo this sweetness, so start with just a few raisins.  It's so surprising how these veggies, with the right fats and spices, taste like my favorite cookie!

Smoothies started out being a way to digest more vegetables and fruits, but they are getting so good now that I'm always looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Carrot Cake Smoothie

I realize the offerings here of late are smoothie-heavy, and I'll feature more actual food soon.  Recently I've made a shift with my veggie/fruit consumption, and I have smoothies to thank. Adding one or two smoothies a day makes it so much easier to reach my goal of 9 cups of veggies a day.  Real food delivers nutrients so much more effectively and palpably than supplements.  Since I'm learning so much about what works for me, I'm putting more energy and time into the blender, so solid food seems less inspiring right now.

Guys, this one's the best yet!  Seriously dessert-worthy, it's a great way to start the day.


Carrot Cake Smoothie

2 large carrots
1 granny smith apple
2 Tbsp almond butter
1/4 c coconut milk
2 Tbsp raisins
Nutmeg to taste
Black pepper - a tiny bit
1-2 cups water/ice

I only used a cup of water here, and the smoothie turned out to be the consistency of pudding.  You may want to add more water for a liquidy result.  With no added sugar, this was sweet from the raisins and carrots already.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Almond Butter and "Jelly" Smoothie!

After a week of striving for the Wahls' 9 cups of veggies and fruits per day -- I'm sold!  On the days I was able to get close to 9, I felt amazing and many of my persistent symptoms (skin pain and numbness, fatigue, brain fog) began to disappear again.  Other autoimmune skin issues disappeared instantly, my facial skin improved freakishly fast (it seems tighter and pores are smaller, tone is more even).  Since I doubt healing is only skin deep, I'm hoping the benefits to the CNS are even more dramatic.  A couple of days I ran out of time and was only able to squeeze in 6 veg servings and the old symptoms began coming right back again.  Immediate palpable evidence is so rare as we spoonies strive to find what's best to include in our healing arsenals.  What a treat to have anecdotal evidence to match Dr. Wahls' clinical results.

Since I adore freshly made juice, and Dr. Wahls didn't recommend it in The Wahls' Protocol because of the glycemic index spike it could cause, that was one of the reasons I stopped pursuing the Protocol last year.  I never thought I'd like smoothies as an alternative to juice, because of the texture.  Now, looking back, I wonder why I was so hard-headed about this.  It seems crazy that I didn't even try veggie smoothies as a way to up my veg doses for the Protocol.  It's so much easier to eat more vegetables when some of the servings are pre-digested in smoothie form.  I've had the Vitamix all along, and am now really putting it to good use -- every day!

I've really enjoyed the recipes in Dr. Wahls' new book, but this one is my original recipe.  It was amazing, and provided at least 3 cups of my required servings, along with wonderful healthy fats and protein.



Almond Butter and Jelly Smoothie
1 c red organic seedless grapes
1/2 cucumber, peeled unless organic
2 organic purple carrots, unpeeled
2 Tbsp. organic almond butter
1 Tbsp. MCT oil
1 c filtered water/ice
a shake of nutmeg
a shake of powdered ginger
freshly ground black pepper - 1 grind

This recipe made about 3 servings, and this is how I portioned them.  I initially put the mason pint jar in the fridge and I sipped it later on in the morning.  So I had all three servings -- sort of a brunch situation.  The smoothie was substantial enough that I needed no additional breakfast, and had no problems with nausea from supplements and medications.  If I don't have enough on my stomach I do sometimes get a little ill when I take my pills.  Not in this case!

I feel so happy to have found one piece of my wellness puzzle!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another Look at Wahls

My spoonie memory had deleted the fact that  I'd pre-ordered Dr. Wahls' new book, The Wahls Protocol, Food for Life.  Imagine my surprise when it showed up on my doorstep as I was already knee-deep in The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt.  Being a girl who takes note when the universe seems to speak, I used the synchronicity as an excuse to reassess my approach to wellness, and my reasons for giving up what hadn't seemed to work.

Last year, I decided the Wahls Protocol wasn't going to work for me because I seemed to always fall short of its requirements.  I was always sold on the theory, just had trouble implementing it.  So, I never really gave it a chance.  I've consumed Dr. Wahls' new book almost in its entirety in only a few days.  I'm happy to say that this new book makes the Wahls' Protocol more accessible for me.  Dr. Wahls also now employs a "template" approach similar to Mickey's and Angie's.  I'm not organized by nature, but if actually try planning, I might get somewhere.  I'm thrilled with both recent books, and I find the content of each complements the other.

I've been feeling so tired and unfocused lately, and recent symptoms tend to hang around all the time when they used to go away for a while in a 24 hour span.  Yesterday I got 7 Wahls' servings of vegetables and fruits -- way more than I normally am able to consume.  This morning I feel great!  There's no way of knowing after one day if it's because of what I ate yesterday or because of something else, so it's worth expanding the experiment.  Today I'm going for 9!

This Apple Pie Smoothie, from Dr. Wahls' new book, was amazing, and I am still full two hours later.  I've got 2 of my veggies in already.  Time to stock up on more!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Try, Try Again

I got the right ingredients for the gelatin gummies this time, and had success.  Lackluster as they appear, these little orange, lemon and ginger gummies, from the Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, are great!  When I was ordering the gelatin, I also treated myself to some cute little silicone molds. I'm a huge fan.  They were so easy to use.  There was also a mold sheet of gummy bears -- tiny ones, along with a little syringe for filling, but my gelatin was quickly firming up as it cooled to room temperature, so I didn't go to that trouble.  I just used my pyrex measuring cup with a spout to quickly fill the larger molds.  In less than an hour they were set.

I'm crazy about ginger, so I was a bit heavy with it.  The whisking of the liquid gelatin produced lots of little bubbles, which firmed up quickly.  I love letting the finished gummies melt in my mouth a little bit.    The resulting effect is akin to Pop Rocks.  I may be dating myself.  When we were kids we loved this candy that came in foil packets:  you poured it on your tongue and there were little explosions in your mouth, along with a spicy taste.  The bubbles in the gummies melting and the powdered ginger  reminded me of the Pop Rocks somehow.  Nostalgia!

These gummies are a great treat, but are also a wonderful source of protein and collagen.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Simple

Sometimes spoonies' energy lags at certain points in the day, despite our best efforts.  For me, when the fatigue hits I also stop thinking clearly -- not the best time to pick a snack.  It's a good idea to have an advance plan for times like these, with go-to easy options on hand.

Today, these delicious canned sardines from Vital Choice fit the bill.  Sourced from Portugal, these are the best canned sardines I've tasted and are sustainably harvested.  They come in a few different varieties.  These were packed in water, so I added a shake of dried chipotle and a forkful of capers for flavor.  It was an amazing "tide me over" as my grandma Eula used to call it.  A calm energy returned and I was able to think through the rest of my day.

The Vital Choice sardines are also available packed in extra virgin olive oil, with or without a single red pepper, or tomato sauce.  I love the one with the oil and pepper best -- fantastic right out of the can!  VC also has canned mackerel, which I'm eager to try.  Both are excellent sources of Omega3 fatty acids, essential to brain and central nervous system health.  I'm not a paid advertiser, and am only sharing the information about Vital Choice because my Functional Medicine doctor recommended the company.  It's also where I order my flash-frozen wild caught fish-- also sustainably sourced.  The products are amazing and the company is great to work with.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Broth Quota

I've been trying to get two cups of bone broth a day, and here's how I had it this evening.  The broth made a lovely fresh soup with a spoonful of coconut milk, a splash of tamari, a shake of turmeric, a tiny pinch of sea salt and these fresh veggies.  Beginning to end, the soup took 10 minutes to make.  I still have another bowlful for breakfast tomorrow so am ahead of the game.  Delicious.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Shades of White

Sometimes you get lucky.  When I decided to pour part of a batch of bone broth into a jar to freeze, I chose the right one through happenstance, and I didn't overfill it, so all went as hoped.  Later that week, I got to the part in The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook that explained how important it is to use straight wide-mouthed jars for freezing (without "shoulders") to avoid cracking the glass when the contents expand.  The book also mentioned the "fill line" that is on the jars, which I hadn't even noticed because of my MS vision.  I'd luckily filled the jar right to the line!

Here's my latest frozen jar, pulled out to thaw.  I thaw it overnight in the fridge.  I've gotten into a pretty good routine with the broth now, I think.  I use a large glass pitcher in the fridge, plus one of these pint jars in the freezer for each batch.  As I'm getting to the bottom of the pitcher, I pull the jar out of the freezer.  As I begin using what's in the jar, I start a new batch in the slow cooker.  I'm having about 2 cups a day now, either in soups or in a mug with coconut milk.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pudding!

This tasted so much better than it looks.  The photo probably would have been prettier without the dried sour cherries, but I love them so there you have it.  The pudding is loosely based upon a recipe in The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook -- loosely because I only had one avocado and it calls for 3.  So I just guessed at the other amounts.  Ingredients here are blueberries, the dregs of the jar of blueberry mousse juice from my gelatin fail (instead of the orange juice in the recipe), avocado, vanilla, a little salt and a drizzle of honey.  It was lovely, and solved a sweet tooth.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Breakfast for Dinner

You may be thinking, "That doesn't look like breakfast,"

No, maybe not, but it is: "Nutrivore's Breakfast" from The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, to be exact.

I'd been eating my liver, onions and mushrooms for several meals, and figured it was about time to reinvent the leftovers before they ran out.  Mickey Trescott's and Angie Alt's recipe calls for raw liver to be incorporated into the grass-fed ground beef and fresh herbs for the patties, but I decided to grind up my cooked liver, onions and mushrooms instead -- since that's what I had.

This was SO GOOD!  I can't say enough good things about this recipe.  I froze more raw patties to cook another day.

I'm also already craving again these sweet potatoes.  Before I got this book, I'd typically use kosher salt, if any, since the quantity is easy to control.  I did follow the recipe for the potatoes and found that the sea salt and solid fat really imparted a crispy/salty/sugary edge to these spuds.  I think the parchment I cooked them on was also a huge help -- they slid right off without sticking, and I got to eat the whole thing instead of losing the crunchy part that's usually stuck to the pan!  The potatoes were like lovely, healthy little bits of candy.  It'll be easy to make another batch tomorrow, so I'll also be having this for breakfast, after all. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

An Early Fail (and What I Did About it)

Still getting myself up to speed with Mickey Trescott's and Angie Alt's book, I'm trying to implement a few more of the suggestions, here and there.  I liked the idea of gelatin gummies, and I thought I had some of the ingredients, so I gave 'em a whirl.  I made juice from frozen wild blueberries and followed the recipe.  I had Great Lakes Collagen, which I've used for smoothies in the past, so I figured it would be as good as Great Lakes Gelatin.

Nope.

It's hard to tell in this still photo, but this panful is still liquid after chilling overnight.  I hated to waste it, so I poured it into the Vitamix with lots of ice.  I had to do it in batches, because it got very big and fluffy!

Here's about a quarter of the collagen/blueberry concoction, which is probably plenty to have at one time since the honey from the recipe makes it pretty sweet.  It was light and fluffy, more like a mousse than a smoothie. I kept the rest of the liquid in a mason jar in the fridge until I was ready for another blueberry mousse drink.
The carton of gelatin should be arriving tomorrow, and then I'll try to do it right.

Experimenting with a failed recipe attempt is a good way to learn about how these unusual ingredients behave.  Now I know.  Waste not, want not!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Leaning Back In

I'm working my way back to health again.  Here's an example of what I've been eating lately, besides the bone broth and piles of greens.  Organic chicken livers, onions, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, rapini, kale and garlic star in this healthy bowl.  This is not a recipe, it just checks the boxes of what I already know to be nutritionally dense, inflammation-free food.

This time I'm inspired by a new cookbook and lifestyle management book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt.  Check out their website at: AutoimmuneWellness.com

While I still utilize The Wahls Protocol a lot, especially for the delicious and easy recipes, I realize in hindsight that there's so much psychology that goes into a lifestyle change of any kind.  I felt worse about myself while I was striving to meet the requirements of the Protocol.  Dr. Wahls is a physician who healed herself from progressive MS with a specific, paleo diet based upon clinical trials that she first performed on herself, and then on others.  When I endeavored to follow the protocol last year, I never felt I got it right.  Eating meat so often made it difficult to consume the 9 cups of vegetables required.  I only successfully checked all the boxes one day out of the 6 months or so that I tried.  I didn't feel better -- stronger, but much more tired.  I felt foggier and more moody.  I felt I wasn't giving the Protocol the proper chance, but without feeling better from what I was able to consume, I wasn't inspired to continue.  Ultimately, I missed the easy, light-hearted, even-tempered vegan lifestyle I'd been following prior to trying Wahls, and I went back to it, for the most part, only continuing to eat salmon.  I still LOVE vegetables most of all! I felt less inept and less moody being mostly vegan again, so I was in denial for a while about the fact that the MS symptoms persisted, along with new symptoms I've since learned are from other autoimmune challenges.

Mickey and Angie's book is perfectly filling a need I currently have as I come to terms with my status today, after over twenty years with MS.   I really like the "template" approach to wellness Mickey and Angie employ in their book.  They note that there is not one "perfect" diet for everyone, and provide a framework that each of us can use for our unique circumstances.  This book is also about much more than diet, with practical advice about disease management and lifestyle.  I'm gleaning so much from this book.  I'm not ready to jump in whole hog (pun intended), since I've not read very far yet, but I'll endeavor to lean into the template as I'm able, while I enjoy reading.

The Wahls Protocol is clinically proven for exactly what I need, but I may not be the ideal subject for it.  Nevertheless, since being vegan is no longer helping me, there's no need to give up on the paleo approach on a different, more individualized scale.  I'm excited to learn more.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Healing . . . Again

Even those of us who know the formula for wellness can lose our grasp on it at times.  Wellness is tenuous for us spoonies.  Sometimes something changes and we need to tweak our formula, or change it altogether.  Sometimes we're knocked off course by unexpected stress or a change of routine.  Sometimes, we let our formula slip ever so slightly, again and again, until we are at critical mass -- the so-called last straw -- and we crash.

Today I realized I'd come to that point.  I've been more fatigued than normal recently, and transient symptoms, which normally go away after a good night's rest, had greeted me again with the sunrise for the last couple of days.  When I took a good look at myself, I realized I'd let a few things slide.  Before my self-examination went any further, I put a pot of water on to boil and grabbed the marrow bones from the freezer.

Spoonies have individualized arsenals born of years of trial and error.  We try everything, and endeavor to keep track of what works and what doesn't.  I've been vegan, paleo and gluten-free, and different combinations of these diets since 2010.  The one thing that hasn't changed about my diet is being dairy-free.  Dairy's effects are dramatic, immediate and specific, so there's no need to wonder about it.  Gluten doesn't seem to be as cut and dried for me.  While I undoubtedly feel best without it, my love affair with pasta has led me to bring it back into my life little by little.  Hence my "last straw" realization this morning.  I'd had one bowl of pasta too many.

Pasta isn't my only problem, clearly.  Unfortunately, as we become lackadaisical about one area of wellness management, others may tend to slide as well.  Without undeniable proof, we can deny that the lapses are having a deleterious effect.  An accumulation of lapses leaves it unclear what the worst offenders were.  So -- time to weed out the culprits.

Back to the drawing board:  Bone broth has been absent of late, so I made a big pot of it.  I'd forgotten how much that essential oils enrich wellness.  Out they came again.  I steered clear of gluten today and instead made this healing soup:  bone broth, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, Brussels sprouts and rapini and nothing else.  Soup for breakfast set the mind at ease, and before long the remaining tingles in my arms and hands, and the hypersensitivity and pain along the left side of my body went away.  Even the canker sores that had popped up in my mouth this morning (a sign of toxicity) went away!  Shockingly, I was better within two hours of the broth.

We know what heals us.  The key for us spoonies is to remember what we already know, in the moment, as the stresses of life, or our own choices, knock us off track.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tips From This Spoonie: Stress

This shaky photo of boats on the water reminds me of brain synapses straining to connect during stress

Beyond a doubt, the most severe threat to this spoonie's health, both long- and short-term, is stress.  While I work hard to stay healthy and have been fortunate, I could be at the top of my game, only to have it all undone in one stressful moment.  A shock to the system will typically send a literal electric shock sensation through my body and I can actually feel the damage in my brain.  A bad shock will send me to bed for a day or two, as cognition becomes foggy and exhaustion prevails.  It's as if a life force has been sapped.  Unfortunately, life is stressful by nature and avoiding stress altogether is unrealistic. While spoonies can't avoid all stress, there are things we can do to mitigate and minimize the smaller stressful moments we may otherwise endure.  Here are a few things I do to take care of myself.

1.  I only make right turns in traffic.  People may think I'm being ridiculous, but timing a left turn across two directions of traffic is extremely stressful for me.  I think the reason for this is that, with my worsening vision, I no longer have confidence in my depth perception.  Better safe than sorry, and better calm than compromised.  Incidentally, while I may be going "around my elbow to get to my thumb", I understand that navigation software has actually been developed for delivery trucks that prioritizes right turns in routing.  In many cases, especially in heavy traffic, the right-turn route is faster.  Also, the delivery companies get a break on insurance with this navigation system since there are fewer accidents with mostly right turns in the route.

2.  I "practice" an unfamiliar route the day before.  Knowing where I'm going is very important for eliminating stress.  If I'm not on a schedule, and can choose a time to find the location when there is less traffic, it'll be easier for me the next day.  The necessity of changing lanes in thick traffic at the last minute is terribly stressful.  I memorize exactly which lane I'll need and get into it well in advance.

3.  I avoid driving after dark.  It's just too hard to see.

4.  I aim to leave 15 minutes before I have to.  I'm otherwise notoriously late, since there's always something unforeseen to tend as I'm walking out the door. Even with this 15 minute cushion, I still usually get there only 5 minutes early.

5.  I try to limit errands to two locations per day.  More than that, and I run out of steam.

6.  I try to take notes and keep records on paper -- filed.  This sounds old school, but online banking is as cyber-savvy as I get.  I've found my bank's website to be useful, easily searchable and dependable, but I've had trouble managing separate accounts which only online-bill.  Since each account has a different system, it's hard for me to keep track.  My memory is unreliable, so I need a paper trail for most things.

7. I limit brain-intensive tasks to the morning, when I'm most likely to succeed.  There's no point in persisting after my head has run out of steam.  I'll just suffer, then have to check back later and redo it anyway.

8.  I go to bed when I want to.  I used to feel guilty, but my family gets it now.

9.  I try to be firm with boundaries.  Full disclosure, I'm terrible at this, but I'm working on getting better.  As an empathetic mom and wife, my default mode is to put everyone else's needs first, especially if there's a crisis of any kind.  Discussing boundaries with loved ones when it's not the "heat of the moment" may be a good strategy.  The best thing I can do sometimes is to remove myself from the equation.  This one's a work in progress.

10. Recharging is important.  Taking some time each day to be alone is great for clearing an addled mind, and creativity of any kind is food for the soul.  Nature is wonderful for maintaining perspective.

11. Meditation is excellent for minimizing stress, but it's difficult to do if we're already in the throes of it.  Maintaining a regular practice really does make it easier and more effective.  For the times when quieting the mind is a lost cause, swaroopa yoga is wonderful.  This type of yoga is really a guided meditation, tapping into mind, body and spirit.  I can't say enough good things about it.  There's no more effective reboot.

12. Remember humor.  When we face a stressful situation, it's sometimes hard to think of anything else.  The evolutionary cause of this mindset is likely to find a solution i.e. finding a way to evade the jaws of a saber-toothed tiger.  But our modern stress is often about things that cannot be readily solved.  When all we can do is wait, it's best to step out of a circular thinking pattern.  A belly laugh is amazingly good at snapping us out of a stressful moment.  "Drunk History" is a show that delivers to spectacular effect and is a great way to spend half an hour.  Youtube videos or satire in the form of literature, shows or movies can also do the trick.  The point is to distract ourselves until the worst of the moment has passed.

As I find more stress-busting suggestions for spoonies, I'll share them going forward.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tips From This Spoonie: Medications

If you too are a spoonie, you probably have one of these.  In this pill organizer is a collection of prescriptions and supplements that have been prescribed by my Neurologist and Functional Medicine doctor.  I was diagnosed with MS over 21 years ago, and am mostly doing well.  Besides the medications, I follow a healthy diet and do my best to stay fit and reduce stress, which is the most devastating thing for disease activity.

The pill organizer is great for quickly sorting pills when I'm at home, but when I travel, the compartments are prone to pop open, so I use ziplock baggies instead.  With a sharpie, I label the AM piles.  I used to do AM and PM but my vision has gotten much worse so if I only write on one pile of baggies, it's easier for me to tell them apart.

Insurance has recently stopped paying for one of the injectables I've been taking for 17 years now, copaxone, because a generic has become available:  glatopa.  I did the research and I find that the ingredients are the same, and it's covered, so I switched.


I don't like the accessories that came with the glatopa -- specifically the "glatopaject"  which is a brutal, bruising version of the autoject I used to use with copaxone.  It's like being punched in the gut with a fist holding a needle.  The glass glatopa syringe appeared to be the same circumference as the copaxone, so I experimented and popped it into my old tried and true autoject.  It worked like a charm, so I trashed the glatopaject torture device.  This is a photo of the autoject I've been using for years.  It is a great little gadget for taking the psychology out of daily injections.  You just load the syringe and push a button.  It makes needles as palatable as they can be, and I'm grateful for it.

My other injectable, B12, is compounded and I use a 1-inch needle to administer it intramuscularly, and there's no autoject for that, but it's great medicine and only once a week, so I do it.
This stiff-walled case, made by copaxone, makes more sense than the soft little duffel glatopa sent me, which is being used as an excellent lunchbox now.  The syringes are prefilled and made of glass.  If there is a way to avoid catastrophe, why not?
About 10 syringes will fit in the pocket, along with the autoject and a nifty little gadget that's my latest favorite thing for travelling with needles:
The needle nipper!  This tiny little thing makes safely disposing of sharps easy.  After using the syringe, you insert the needle into this little hole, and then squeeze the sides together.  The needle is cut off the syringe and remains inside the gadget.  The needleless syringe can then go in any trash can.  In days of yore, a plastic flat baby wipes container with a rubber band to keep it closed was my best bet to travel with used sharps safely.  I needed something that large to bring the whole syringes back home to my sharps container.  This little gadget is a game changer.

Incidentally, over the 18-odd years I've been travelling with sharp objects, I've only been stopped once going through security.  I was leaving Nicaragua for the U.S. with a bunch of used needles.  I offered to hand them over, but explained that I was planning on safely disposing of them at home.  They let me proceed with my sharps.  I've travelled often, and it's a bit alarming that my filled syringes and paraphernalia are clearly visible by x-ray, but I don't get so much as a second look.  Also, it's fine for me to fly with 18-inch metal knitting needles.  You'd better not bring your nail clippers, though!

But I digresse -- if any other spoonies out there have tips or ideas that make life easier, I'd love to hear!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tips From This Spoonie: Food Prep

As spoonies, we're all different, but we share some things in common.  One is that our routines with medication and food can cost us time, energy and funds.  Necessity being the mother of invention, most of us have found ways to optimize the process.

Nutrition plays an enormous role in a spoonie's well being.  Working with a Functional Medicine doctor or a nutritionist can be helpful.  Fresh, organic vegetables and fruits benefit anyone, but especially us spoonies.  I try to buy mostly organic, but because of financial constraints, sometimes keep the "Dirty Dozen" list in mind when shopping for veggies.  This list rates vegetables on how unhealthy they are for us if not organic.  Those rated as "dirtiest" have pesticide absorption more than skin-deep, so cannot be adequately washed.  The link here, from EWG, actually lists the 48 dirtiest veggies.  I definitely don't want to add poisons to my system, so try to opt for organics for these.

Many spoonies don't have much energy to prepare healthy food.  Here's what I do to cut down on the "active" part of fresh veggie prep.  I use a series of large bowls.  In the sink, I fill a bowl with dirty veggies, water and a splash of white vinegar.  I let it soak for about 5 minutes while I tend to other tasks.  In the other sink I fill a second bowl with plain water.  I use this natural bristle brush to quickly wipe off the vegetables, one at a time, and any visible dirt will come right off.  Each vegetable then goes into the fresh water bath. This only takes a handful of seconds.  Finally, I pull the whole pile of veggies from the water bath and put them in a dry bowl where they are ready to chop.  The reason I pull them out of the water rather than draining them in a colander is that there is often still grit at the bottom of the bowl.  I work with gravity and keep the grit on the bottom.  Though I'm only actively scrubbing for seconds, the initial vinegar soak is very effective, and I find the veggies are much cleaner than just washing by hand under running water.

I keep this veggie brush in a drawer because more than one well-meaning family member has used former veg-brushes to scrub dirty dishes with detergent.  While I am sooooo grateful for any help in the kitchen, I could never think of those brushes again as clean with the chemicals from the soap and possibly dairy residue (I'm dairy-free).  It may not really matter, but it's my quirk, so I hide the brush.

Serendipitously, I discovered the little brush fits perfectly on the faucet handle for drying after I've used it.  While it's drying, I do rudely tell everyone not to touch it.  I don't ask for much, so they bear with me!  Then I hide it again.

As ideas come, I'll continue this "Tips From This Spoonie" series. #spoonie

Monday, January 30, 2017

What's a Spoonie?

 A buzzword originally coined by blogger Christine Miserandino, a spoonie is someone who suffers from an “invisible” chronic illness.  Christine, who has lupus, used a handful of spoons, while eating at a diner with her best friend, to illustrate how her daily life is different.  A spoonie begins her day with a certain number of spoons, and needs to plan where and when to use them.  When the spoons are used up, the day is over.  The spoons represent currency such as energy, focus, mental or visual acuity, physical strength or whatever is in short supply for someone living with chronic illness.  For spoonies, getting out of bed and putting something in our stomachs so we can swallow or inject our medicine costs spoons.  Showering and choosing clothing costs spoons.  Before we even leave our homes, we’ve spent a portion of our daily allotment.  For the rest of the day, it’s up to us how we spend the remaining spoons.

With an “invisible illness” we appear to be well, so those around us may not understand our limitations and may mistake reticence for social awkwardness or a wishy-washy attitude.  The truth is that someone who looks well, and can “pass” as able-bodied, would rather blend in with the rest of the world. We can’t share a running commentary of what is numb, tingly, sore, weak or foggy, or we’d be tiresome to be around.  Nobody wants to stand out because of illness.  We keep it to ourselves unless our spoons are being spent too quickly, or frivolously.  We want to look our best and fit in where we can. With the general public, we will sometimes have to endure dirty looks as we emerge, unaided, from our disabled parking spaces -- it’s not worth explaining to a stranger that in the heat of summer walking across a parking lot feels like trudging through ankle-deep mud. But for loved ones who want to better understand, spoons are an apt tool.

Each spoonie is a little different.  Even with one type of illness, our limitations vary.  I learned long ago that eliminating stress saves many spoons.  I only make right turns in traffic because I’d blow through a lot of spoons waiting to turn left at a busy intersection.  I need to avoid heat at all costs.  Getting too warm will eliminate all my spoons for the day at once.  Brain work, like paying bills, writing or organizing, needs to be done in the morning for me.  The brain spoons are the first ones to go.  Accordingly, prep for dinner needs to be done around lunchtime.  Planning spoons are unavailable at the end of the day.  Occasionally, if I’ve spent all my spoons and still have to make dinner, a little vodka on ice will provide a temporary boost, but then I’m spending tomorrow’s spoons.

While a spoonie has a general idea about how many spoons are available each day, chronic illness is unpredictable by nature, so our allotment of spoons may change at a moment’s notice.  Even with stable health, our days don’t always go as planned, and spoons sometimes need to be used out of turn.

Chronic illness is isolating.  When we feel misunderstood we are even more alone.  The spoonie discussion has helped to connect many of us who are in similar circumstances.  The tangible illustration of spoons as currency is an easy way to conceptualize what may otherwise be difficult to grasp from an able-bodied frame of reference.  While I feel fortunate to “pass” as able-bodied sometimes, I’m also a spoonie.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Farro Salad

I can't get enough of this amazing salad.  I want to eat it at every meal.

I cooked farro until it was tender but still chewy, then poured it over the juice and zest of a lemon with finely chopped raw onion.  The heat of the grains slightly mellowed the onions and the flavors sank right into the farro.  Next, I stirred in chopped raw asparagus, canned artichoke hearts, raw dill, raw mint, salt, pepper and plenty of olive oil.  Obviously, you can customize the ingredients to suit your tastes.  I only used about 1/4 of onion.  Definitely don't skip the lemon, which is perfect with these flavors and textures.

Farro, the so-called "grandfather" of wheat, is not gluten-free, but this ancient grain seems to be more digestible than modern, genetically modified forms of wheat.  Personally, I'm able to tolerate farro without any of the digestive upset and skin issues that I sometimes get with gluten.  If you can tolerate a little bit of gluten, give this salad a try.