Feening For Fennel

Standard

It is quite common for people with lupus to have digestive issues and  last  Wednesday was the beginning of a nasty bout for me.  The timing was pretty bad: I had scheduled an aquaponics training for the very next morning and I  had some very excited farmers looking forward to it.

There was no way to mask the pain so it was great that I was in the company of likeminded  ‘food as medicine’ people: High Garden Center farmer George,  Dr. David Epstein, and Lois Peterson; a PGG board member who is currently furthering her study in  nutrition.

Dr. Dave suggested that I consider adding digestive enzymes pre-biotics  and pro-biotics to my supplement regiment. I was experiencing a flare (an auto immune crisis) so that was sound advice. Fortunately I have all of that on hand… including kombucha of course.  🙂

Lois suggested I go gluten-free and dairy free completely until things calmed down.  She also reminded me of the importance of bone broths when trying to  heal the gut. I grabbed Nourishing Traditions out of my office for reference.  Good thing I did! I had never considered putting wine in my broth! While I didn’t go there this time (with the turmoil in my belly I’ve decided to stay away from alcohol for the moment), I have filed that away under things I will certainly do in the near future. I cooked an organic bird slowly over the course of two days.  In addition I added loads of extras: a cinnamon stick, several garlic bulbs, onion, about 2 inches of ginger,  2 inches of turmeric, carrots and celery.

George sent me into the garden.

Grinning and Bearing it.

Grinning and Bearing it.

He mentioned a few plants that I might want to steep and drink as tea but for some reason I went right to the fennel, popped a few sprigs into my mouth. I have had fennel before in salads but have always remained pretty neutral on it. On this day, however,   I was actually craving it.  And I’ve been noshing on it every day since. Fennel has a licorice like flavor so it taste like candy to me. Eating it, was soothing.

After several days of running into the garden for my fennel fix, I decided to see why my body was asking for it.  After researching it further, it turns out it makes perfect sense.  Here are some of the benefits of fennel listed on juicingforhealth.com:

images

Anemia:  Since fennel is rich in iron and histidine, it serves as a good natural remedy for anemia. The production of hemoglobin is increased as a result of the consumption of food containing iron.

Breast milk, secretion:  Lactating mothers can consume fennel juice regularly to increase the secretion of nutritious milk for their infants.

Cancer:  The high content of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils in fennel bulb all provide synergistic healing properties for the prevention of cancer.

Colic:  Colic happens because of an imbalanced intestinal flora.  The essential oils found in fennel are useful for rebalancing the flora for remedy of renal colic.

Constipation:  The roughage in fennel seeds act as a stimulant in the clearance of bowels.  By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes regular bowel movement.

Diarrhea:  The essential oils in fennel like Cineole and Anethole help to remedy diarrhea. By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes a healthy bowel movement.

Diuretic:  The diuretic property of fennel helps in the removal of toxic substances from the body through frequent urination. Thus, it helps to reduce inflammation that causes rheumatism and swelling.

Flatulence:  Excessive flatulence happens due to the highly imbalanced intestinal flora in the digestive tract.  Fennel has the capability to reduce the bad bacteria while increasing the good bacteria that help rebalance the digestive flora.

Hair health:  The sulphur content together with all the right amino acids and essential oils in fennel help strengthen hair and reduce hair fall.

High blood pressure:  The high potassium content in fennel helps reduce high blood pressure and thus decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Indigestion:  The essential oils in fennel increases the secretion of digestive juices, helping in reduction of stomach inflammation and in the absorption of nutrients from the food eaten. Since fennel also has anti-acidic qualities, it is used widely also as an antacid.

Menstruation disorders:  As fennel is an emmenagogue, it helps regulate the hormonal action in the female body, easing menstruation flow.

Vision health:  Fennel has unique properties that can help protect from eyes inflammation, as well as with other eye disorders which are directly or indirectly connected to muscular degeneration and aging.  Due to the anti-oxidants and the necessary amino acids in fennel, they help rejuvenate and prevent aging. The juice of fennel leaves when externally applied on the eyes may help reduce eye irritations and fatigue.

I am on the mend! Was it the broth? Kombucha?  Fennel?

I’d say all three.   I’d also say that I am healing my body with  comfort food, soda and candy.  Except it’s real food. And that just makes me giddy.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Running for Pound Cake (my plan for holiday eating)

Standard

So isn’t a secret that I take exercise and nutrition seriously. For me, it is about way more than getting into skinny jeans (what brainiac thought those were a good idea anyway?); it is a matter of life (full and vibrant) or death (lack of mobility and functionality).  However, I certainly appreciate flat abs and a nice tush as much as the next lady AND I realize how holiday indulging can sabotage the best of efforts.

Therefore, I present to you my Thanksgiving —–> Christmas plan.  I’ve broken it into three sections:

IN MY BELLY

MOVE  MY A**

AND SAVASANA

In My Belly:

The hubster makes my grandmother’s pound cake twice a year. Once at Thanksgiving and once at Christmas. Yeah, sure, it might be better to break it up with more months in between but that’s another thing about me;  I don’t mess with tradition. 😉 I also make sweet potato pies every Thanksgiving and freeze a couple for Christmas. These I don’t eat; so it is not a real problem.  However there is also dressing and macaroni and cheese to consider. 🙂 Truthfully, I can forgo all of it with the exception of grandmas cake. It’s going in my belly. twice. And by twice I mean four times: two slices around Thanksgiving and two around Christmas.

Here is what I will consume everyday between these must-have experiences:

1) Drink 16-20 ounces green smoothie. My standard recipe is: kale, cucumber, beets, organic frozen mixed berries, pineapple, coconut water and ginger root.

2) Drink bone broth/ homemade stock. This is en vogue right now so I’ve been playing around with it a bit more. However, my mother and grandmother always made their own stock.  Sometimes I stew some veggies in my stock but mostly I drink 4-6 ounces of it a day. Straight. No chaser. Chock full of nutrients.

3) Eat/drink fermented foods. Now I’ve mentioned my kombucha consumption before but during the holidays there are no missed days. I also have one serving of homemade yogurt and occasionally I will have kefir or kimchi (more about those later). I am a huge fan of probiotics especially for those of us with inflammation and/or gut issues.  Particularly if you occasionally eat pound cake (or something like it) like me.

4) No simple carbs (with the exception of the aforementioned)

5)Complex carbs are limited to the vegetable variety. And a few low glycemic fruits. 🙂

You can see how these five rules give significant structure to my eating.  There are other things that are not mentioned here that are understood no-no’s on any day: no junk food, no fried foods, no fast food, no fake food.

Move My  A**

Here is what I’ve committed to (minimum):

2 days of running (10 miles minimum a week, includes HITT workout and hill repeats)

2 days of CrossFit

2 days of yoga

Bottom line: If you are going to do the crime, you gotta do the time. I’m willing to move my a**. Are you?

Here is a handy chart that can help you figure out how to make up yesterday’s damage:

image

Savasana

This is the hardest part for me. Finding that quiet, stress free place in my head to go to when life is a bit squirrely. In the past, nothing got stressed out quite like the holidays. Especially when I was hosting. This year however things were different.  But it took lots of effort. When one of the boys left the water on in an upstairs bathroom and the tub overflowed leaving water stains on the kitchen ceiling, I just took a deep breath. Namaste. We fixed the plumbing side of things but the aesthetics remain. *sigh*. When my daughter accidentally soaked the sifter Thanksgiving morning almost making said pound cake not happen, I kept my cool and called my neighbor for a replacement. Aside from the 10 minutes we all held our breath until I reached her on the phone; no harm no foul.  I plan to go to my special place often in the next 3 weeks. Life in my house can get more than just squirrely. It’s a down right jungle.

So there you have it. Do a recommend you do what I do? Not exactly. We are all different. You need to find what works for you. For example, I don’t have weight loss or weight/muscle gain goals at the moment. If I did, this would look very different. What I do recommend is that you take the time to come up with a plan. Standing over a table full of carbs at the company pasta competition (I just heard about such shenanigans from a client) is NOT the time to negotiate with yourself. Before temptation arrises, find a quiet place and consider your goals. Be honest with yourself about what you are willing to do to get there. Write down your plan and share it with someone; accountability is very important!

One last thing:

STICK TO THE PLAN.

Now take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

Namaste

What in the heck is Kombucha?

Standard

I’m addicted to a delicious brew call kombucha. I’ve kept it hush-hush because AGAIN, folks don’t need any more evidence that I am wack-a-doo.  I’ve mentioned it on the blog before but I’ve held back in telling you guys how MUCH I drink it. I’ve been brewing and drinking kombucha daily for over a year. It has changed my life.  I’ll tell you how in a minute but first… what is this stuff?

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is made when a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added to brewed tea and allowed to ‘feed’ off the sugar. It kinda looks like a mixture of a mushroom and a jellyfish (Ew I know, but whateves I eat sushi :)).  The culture ferments for about a two weeks and a fizzy  tonic is created. It tastes like a cross between apple cider and vinegar. Very unique drinking experience.  You can add spices (ginger, mint, and lemon grass all work great) or organic juices (pomegranate, apple and berry juices are my favorite) to your brew and create a ton of different flavor options!

Image 1

My beautiful ‘momma’ scoby, my tea brewing nicely, and the finished product.

One cool thing about Kombucha is that no one is 100% certain where/how it started.  Some say Manchuria (Northern China), others Russia… what we do know is drinking it does require a bit of a leap of faith.  So why do I (and countless others) keep tipping back our glasses? Well, it’s in the probiotics baby!

While there is little ‘proof’ of the healing properties many claim kombucha has, the probiotic content cannot be denied.  The evidence that probiotics are instrumental in restoring gut flora is mounting.  However, those of us who believe in it don’t need scientific research, we have our own experience that speaks for itself.  Given my history of digestive issues, I know almost immediately how something affects my belly. When I drink kombucha regularly, my stomach is calm… even when I am less than 100% with my diet. I have also noticed that I have more energy, my skin is clearer and I have almost no sugar cravings.   I also have endometriosis that at times takes me from washboard abs to the protruding stomach of a second trimester expecting mother overnight. There is lots of pain and misery that comes along with that as well.  When I drink my kombucha daily, that just doesn’t happen. After two trips without it, I’ve decided that I will no longer travel without kombucha. It is just that serious to me.

So how do you get your hands on some? I brew my own. I will tell you in a future article how you can do that as well. In the meantime, swing by your local natural foods store. If they don’t carry it, I guarantee they can tell you how to get it!  My local Whole Foods carries it on tap. It is made in North Carolina called a company called Buchi. Once I had to resuscitate my scoby (long story) and I was without brew for several weeks. Buchi was just starting to be offered so  I bought a couple of growlers. Thank you baby Jesus for small blessings. Their stuff is really very good! My favorite flavor is ‘Fire’ with ‘Earth’ coming in second.  I’ve heard they have a new holiday brew (site says it has cloves, vanilla and cranberries- ummm… yes please!) I’m excited to try that during my next shopping trip.

A word about the bottles they offer in the refrigerated section. Typically, I am not a huge fan. They are really over priced in my opinion. A serving of my brew costs me less than $.50 to make using all organic ingredients. Buchi is $11 for 64ounces (first time the refillable growler is $4 extra). The 16-20 ounce bottles I’ve seen costs $5-6 dollars a piece!  I have also not found one that comes close to the yummy taste of my brew.

Yeah… I know I quickly becoming one of ‘those’. I’m cool with that. I’m realizing that ‘those’ folks are my kinda of people. After all,  I married one of ‘those’.  He is thrilled to see me come around.  He’s wanted to go off the grid for some time.  Not kidding.  Also not going to happen. When it comes to food and nutrition, I’m sold.  I’ll  even give up cable… just as soon as he figures out how I can continue to get the OWN network.  Solar energy and water collecting are up for discussion but I will always need to make my way to my waxonista for routine eyebrow control and make a pit stop at the nail salon for a mani/ pedi. This wild woman will can only take this thing so far!

P.S. If you are in the Atlanta area: I am co-hosting a Kombucha tasting party with my friend Pilar of Rancho Alegre Farm. Let me know if you are interested and I will put you on the invitation list!

Kale Mango Lassi

Standard

I really try to keep my ego in check because  I know how dangerous she can be.  Good thing I screw up enough to stay humble. 🙂 But, every now and then I do something brillant.  And today is such a day!

Allow me a moment to share…

I got to the park ready to run and realized that my one of my kids stole my headphones. Wasn’t happy with those two at that particular moment.  So that left me time to really think on my run. Which I really did not want to do. I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. As a matter of fact, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’ve been experiencing some new symptoms.   My disease (Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome) is known to travel with Sjrogren’s and Lupus and I can tell I am headed in the direction of one or both of those.  Extremely dry eyes and mouth, kidney pain, rashes and photosensitivity have all been coming in waves the last few months.

I’ve made adjustments in my workouts (post about that coming real soon) and tweaked my eating AGAIN. Which leads me to my thoughts on my run. I am a clean eater but I when I am having a ‘flare’ I have to take extra measures. I’ve added some additional supplements and I been focusing on restoring the good flora in my gut.  For the last year I’ve been brewing and drinking Kombucha and really seeing a huge difference in how I feel.  I am sure that it has something to do with the fact that I’ve put it in the place of my evening glass of wine BUT there is no denying the tremendous probiotic benefits of fermented foods.  My husband has been making yogurt for about as long and also cooks with the Keifer (close probiotic cousin to yogurt).  I am a one fermented girl! I truly believe that the reason I am able to get up from a rough night and still run 2.5 miles is because of my lifestyle and eating choices.  Oh, and there is that being stubborn thing.

 

When Jan and I were on our way back from our run, she mentioned that she had a ton of yogurt left (our friend Nirmala makes it for her; she actually got my husband started on his journey). I remembered that I had two mangos that needed to be used…. MANGO LASSI! Now,  it is really not the season for mangos or mango lassi ( a refreshing Indian drink) but neither of us like wasting food. Besides, I had a rough night of symptoms last night and could use a healthy dose of good stuff in my belly.  I was prepping to make the lassi when I thought…

Image

I  should put greens it!  I was daring to be great on this one (Brene Brown anyone?).

The kale, mango lassi was born.  I can’t swear by it but I think this is an original invention. <—–here is Miss Ego.  Thought I’d point her out.   Regardless, is really, really good.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups yogurt (homemade is best but organic store bought is fine too)

2 very ripe mangos sliced

Blend until smooth.

Add two cups of kale to the mixture.  Blend.

Squeeze about a tablespoon of raw, local honey and blend a bit more.

This is how it looks. What a pretty shade of green!!!!

Image

 

Pretty damn proud of myself. 🙂

 

I still have a little yogurt and a pineapple that is looking at me sideways.   Round 2 here I come!