What is it all about?

These past two calendar years have taken me on another journey with an added dimension, during which time I experienced exaggerated mood swings that proved to be equally challenging to those around me.  Someone close to me questioned my behavior and even got me thinking about bi-polar disorder and the many who have, or have not yet, been diagnosed.

Image

Stress cofactors
Microsoft clip art

Addressing those uncomfortable perimenopausal symptoms successfully with indole-3-carbinol, most notably elevates energy level.  With all the added energy, my overall strength and mood improved allowing me to really enjoy participating in life for the first time I could remember during my adulthood. Certainly this reflection of energy is contrary to my consistent tendency to retreat.  This got me thinking back throughout my life of living with Crohn’s disease.  Crohn’s is a chronic inflammation triggering the immune system to respond to perceived infection.  When our bodies are constantly fighting infection from whatever source, our energy is drained; in constant pain and/or discomfort and often febrile, causing us to feel irritable and impatient.  Compound these factors with concurring hormonal imbalances brought upon by menopause, PMS, puberty and a host of other biochemical changes we experience as human beings.  A vicious cycle of stress inducing illness not only results from such insults to our systems, but contributes to somewhat erratic behavior as well.

“Neurotransmitter activity is intimately connected with hormonal activity, so any disruption can induce depression in the long term.” 

The endocrine system produces hormones that drive the biofeedback system in the hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary axis. Adaptogenic herbs upregulate hormones reducing stress related effects of cortisol.  Essential conversion of T4 (thyroxine) to bioavailable T3 (triiodothyronine) can be accomplished with fat soluble vitamins, B12 and necessary minerals.

“…discovery of its antiviral effect on Borna disease virus (BDV), which is hypothesized to be an etiopathogenetic factor in subtypes of affective disorders.”

Image

Indole-3-carbinol I3C molecular model
Google image

Whole grains and foods containing vitamin B complex, particularly B12, Mg, and Zn help reduce anxiety.  Tryptophan in bananas affects neurotransmitters like serotonin.  Dark chocolate, without added milk byproducts and sugar, reduces the release of cortisol hormones responsible for potentiating stress and altered moods.

Why are we so quick to judge?  The first inclination both physiologically and psychologically is “fight or flight”.  Whether it is conscious or subconscious, we fear contagion.  We witness something different, askew; and we question what we recognize as being out of the ordinary.  When our hormonal imbalance impacts our outward behavior(s), we are among the last to recognize it ourselves.  I can remember my Grandmothers being the first to make excuses on our behalf as children when being scolded for acting out, they would say: “Maybe they’re coming down with something”.  Wise words we should borrow to express our compassion for others during this day and age of dis-ease.

Advertisements

“Alsace-Mediterraneo” infused Veggie Quiche

Image

Full moon pie

It has been many moons since I have baked a quiche.  Not ever having been especially fond of cooking, quiches were easy, satisfying and the food du jour, soon becoming a staple in our early home together.  I actually phoned my now very-grown-daughter for tips preparing and baking quiche so as to ensure a successful outcome.   Recently logging onto the “Penzey’s Spice” Facebook group page inspired me with a photo of an asparagus quiche wafting across my screen.  I have been on a serious asparagus bender lately and wanting to take full advantage of this remarkable spring cleansing food, I am rejuvenated by modifying this quiche recipe.

Image

Artisanal recipes

Yes, I am promoting and consuming the creamy-cheesy-vegetable richness of this decadent delight with Crohn’s disease!  Whaaaaaa?  I know, right?  Well, there is a disclaimer.  When something is worth it, there is usually a disclaimer.  First and foremost: everything in moderation.  As I mentioned at the top of this manuscript, It has been many moons, precisely however many moons there are in a quarter of a century.

Image

Fresh basil

HOLY BASIL BATMAN the smell is absolutely intoxicating.  I can taste the air in anticipation of this practically illegal prescription.  The scent of the smoked Gouda melding with the tri-pepper blend and Herbes de Provence are enough to make me trip.  This is no flashback, my friend, this is a newly discovered way of eating what I want while being nutritionally beneficial AND taste beyond belief!  Now that I have tantalized your taste buds, I will share the culinary chemistry, outlining each wholesome ingredient working in concert with one another.

Image

“Proper food combining”

Proper food combining:  the theory behind this practice is what allows me to consume a multitude of foods while maintaining a healthful lifestyle with Crohn’s.   Quiche is mostly about all protein (meats) cheese and eggs. This is a crustless quiche recipe, therefore; the proteins are not neutralized by starches and breads creating an indigestible bolus that prohibits efficient absorption.

Quality matters:  The quality of all ingredients is essential to ensure freshness and patency.  Pasture raised eggs are the most wholesome and nutrient rich, making them more bioavailable.  Like eggs, dairy from local farms is not only fresh, but animal friendly, meaning the animal byproducts are NOT subjected to synthesized hormones and antibiotics that are dumped into the environment and ultimately consumed by everyone, clearly proving “less is more”.   Grass-fed organic cows produce milk that is unparalleled to anything most of us have ever experienced since WWII.  We still get a little wonky with respect to pasteurization in the U.S., however; if you are fortunate enough to know of those with Gentlemen (& Gentlewomen) farms, you may be privileged to enzyme intact foods which do not interfere with the digestive process.  For the rest of us who have compromised GI systems and conditions resulting from impaired digestion, there are digestive enzymes.  Never leave home without.

Image

Regional grated smoky cheeses

Breaking it down:  The cheese I chose is a sweet, smoked Gouda, melting like butter and broadening flavors with a familiar yet meatless smoky appeal.  Much of the lactic acid is removed during the curd washing process contributing to the characteristic mellow, sweetness.   Traditional cheeses like Lorraine, Emmenthaler, and Gruyere are of a similar quality and part of the globe from where quiche Lorraine originates.  Quiche consisted of meat, cream and egg, ironically featuring local cheeses following WWII.  This recipe is “Alsacienne” because it contains onions.  Onions have remarkable antimicrobial effects and grow readily.  Onions are a preferable vegetable to nightshades containing solanine, which interfere with enzymatic action causing inflammation.  While making French onion soup, I learned caramelizing  diced onion first enhances sweetness.  The heat breaks down the plant cellulose, softening both texture and flavor.  Onions are also a potent contrast to the powerful and pleasant chlorophyll filled asparagus.  This lively spring vegetable spearheads the season with its diuretic cleansing properties.  Lightly steamed prior to baking, asparagus continues to soften in the oven, allowing it to retain its nutritive value.  So far we have the necessary elements that make good food enjoyable; quality, consistency, texture and flavor.

Image

“Kitchen crusader” homegrown Herbes de Provence

Savory and herbs and everything nice:  There is a lot of leeway when preparing quiche.  I consume vegetables most so I prefer accompanying savory herbs.  This Alsacienne quiche lends itself to the savory “Herbes de Provence” blend, indigenous to the suggested area.  I grow and dry my own varieties of oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender, marjoram, dill and tarragon, using fresh when abundant and dried from the season before.  I speak of these “kitchen crusader” herbs often having historical and geographical significance from my heritage and for my health!  Whether I enhance or substitute my own, I keep a bulk quantity of the incomparably fresh Penzey’s Herbes de Provence on hand.  Another must-have Penzey’s blend is “California Seasoned Pepper”.  This colorful pepper and herb combination brighten all vegetables as well as the pallet.

The table is set with a ‘d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation’, the gastronomical backdrop behind this quiche.  Now I will serve this scrumptious recipe:

Image

“Crust-free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

“Crust-Free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

v  ½ lb. prepared fresh organic asparagus

v  1 small diced Spanish onion or equivalent in-season sweet Vidalia

v  5 beaten pasture raised eggs

v  8 oz. shredded smoked Gouda or 4 oz. of 2 cheeses each.

v  1/2 C. farm fresh milk & cream

v  1 Tbsp. Mediterranean sea salt capers

v  1Tbsp. Herbes de Provence

v  1 tsp. “Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper” or tri-colored peppercorn blend

Image

Quiche ingredients

Bring eggs and measured dairy products to room temperature to ensure a puffy omelette-like consistency upon baking.  Gently steam asparagus spears.  Caramelize onion, if desired.  Beat eggs thoroughly, blending grated cheese(s) into the sunny mix.

Image

“Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne” process

Sprinkle in the herbs and spices of choice.  Line the bottom of a coated quiche dish or large pie plate with vegetables, dotting with the capers.  Pour the silky mixture over the prepared vegetable plate then bake in a preheated 375F oven for 35-40 minutes.

Image

Quiche is almost ready

Quiche is ready when your senses are imbued by the creamy custard and the surface bubbles with a soft, bronze coating.

I opted for the deep dish pie plate since the eggs rise in a souffle-like fashion.  I also add a dash of fresh ground nutmeg mace, suggesting a subtle sweetness and because it has become my traditional trademark!  Whatever you decide, make it your own and enjoy the process, the product and the gratification.

Image

Serving “Crust-free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

Zero tolerance for pain

Image

“Optical Flashback” – Facebook image

I have seen people write about pain as a means of motivation.  Pain is a powerful motivator to not feel pain! I will do anything to prevent and avoid pain.  When my very bright Nephew was about six years old, he informed his Mother he wanted to build rockets.  She asked him what he thought he needed to accomplish that, expecting him to rattle off a list of materials. He surrendered, “I think I need to learn how to read”.  He was soon reading at a 4th grade level followed by a high school level, then college level within a matter of months.  This is an inspirational analogy I tap into each time I am challenged and need motivation.

Pain begets pain.  Like my Nephew, I succumbed to learning how to do something other than my motivational interest for creating my own “pain-free pass“.  I had to cook.  I knew how to cook and even enjoyed baking, but had to cook as an avenue to apply my prescriptive knowledge.  I do it every day for every meal, creating “designer” recipes to augment my biochemistry to offset chronic Crohn’s induced pain. 

Image

“Couteau a Pain” – Bread Knife (Angry Bread)

Eating and living virtually pain free is my reward and goal.  Having to cook from scratch several times a day produces another type of pain which I obviously prefer over the physiological pain.  I share my methodology during independent consults and attempt to share the broader strokes with a wider audience through the internet.  As I recently wrote, electronic technology is another painful side effect to my process.

Pain infiltrates every aspect of life impacting mood, perspective and even the way I carry & present myself.  I failed to understand why anyone holds on to their pain.  We see people in our practice who suffer severe injuries and have degenerative conditions, causing them to live with chronic pain.  Pain may serve as their own brand of motivator, challenging them to move in alternative directions. 

Image

“Sometimes you can’t see the pain…” poster

In recognition of Arbor Day we celebrate today, some trees offer pain relief.  Pycnogenols from the French maritime pine bark are potent pain relievers. The antioxidant OPC’s (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) work synergistically with Vitamin C reducing inflammation and increasing circulation.  Additional modalities for pain attenuation may be explored in ‘Posts of hypnotic Suggestion’ and ‘Life Beyond Pain’.

Health truths and myth

Image

Willie Wonka meme

It astounds me what people will believe, but what is even more astounding is what people want to believe.  Someone once said “cooking for me was “intimidating”.  Confused and surprised by the many interpretations to this statement, I had to inquire.  Did they mean they felt they couldn’t do it “right”?  Perhaps they meant I was judgmental of them and what they eat?  Their response was that they didn’t think they knew how or what to make because they live a different lifestyle.

I practice “alternative” healthcare which involves a pH balanced vegetarian/vegan diet.  I do this primarily out of necessity and because it works.  Food and high quality nutrients ARE my Rx.  I do not need expensive synthetic drugs or invasive diagnostic tests to “treat” an illness that is virtually non-existent in an organic ecosystem.  Side bar:  The NIH classifies Crohn’s disease as an autoimmune disorder.  A compromised GI tract due to floral imbalance signals this immune response.  We are all victims in today’s environment which we created. Since when did eating real food become considered “alternative”?

“I don’t want to give anything up.”  Sacrifice is a part of life, except for the true sacrifices I make to eliminate the symptoms, or “side effects” I experience after eating red meats, sweets, rich foods, living on little sleep and no stretching/exercise.

“You exercise too much.”  What is “too much”, in your opinion is relative.  We all have different needs and with each of those unique requirements come moderation.  We are a behavioral species who respond to punishment and reward.  Over the decades I have learned the rewards a balanced lifestyle brings.  Once I got the benefits from preferring plants over chocolate, I developed recognition for what I wanted while maintaining the “what’s in it for me” reward.

“You have to do what the Doctor says.”  I used to eat a pound of chocolate a day.   Consuming mostly red meat and a pound of chocolate every day, it is no surprise I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  My surgeon told me point blank that this would kill me.  I did not completely believe him but ironically believed the Cleveland Clinic’s Registered Dietician’s protocol specifically designed for me (or anyone who breathed oxygen).  I wish I had followed the wise words of Willie Wonka “Strike that, reverse it”.  Yes, that was my favorite story…imagine.  The reality of the matter is that I had “So little time and so much to do”.  I keep that then outdated dogma for a good laugh and share with clients as the perfect example of what not to eat, IBD or otherwise.

Again, what works for me is not necessarily what is best for you.  I would not recommend my nutritive prescription for anyone else, however; making a few modifications to your present health plan may take you in a surprisingly, positive direction where you win every time!

Image

“Wonka’s Golden Ticket”

Spreading health care activists’ love

Our wooded backyard had two paths leading to a creek filled ravine.  The main path was a steep hill which later in the season became the ideal toboggan chute.  The alternative wrapping and winding through the trees, taking a more gentle decent my Mother dubbed “The scenic route”.

Image

“Birch Allee” Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens by Bethane M. Evans

“In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents.  Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.” – William S. Burroughs.  I accepted the “Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge” willingly, with no expectation.  Fulfilling each “assignment” two weeks into this daily writing commitment has taken me on an unexpected scenic path.  Circulating within this healthcare current, introducing new avenues I otherwise would never have been made aware.  The very first day reached a few special folks conversely stimulating conversation; so much so that I immediately included them on blogs I follow!

Whether expressing ourselves from an empathetic standpoint, sharing professional expertise, or inspiring from personal experience, we each have our own story to tell.  It’s especially gratifying to be acknowledged.  “If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches of the same tree” – W.B. Yeats

Alahnna expresses her own challenges professionally and more visually in her article “The Demyelinators Are Langoliers” on her veteran blog ‘MS Newb’.  Thank you, Alahnna, for giving us graphic insights about Multiple Sclerosis.

Conquer In Spite Of’ was created by Megan McCarthy with a mission to raise awareness concerning the multiple dimensions of Lupus.  I appreciate Megan’s helpful suggestions in her recent post, “Tips for Professional Caretakers’, offering solutions for those who live with chronic autoimmune diseases more comfortable.

Image

Rose strewn pathway

Like Crohn’s disease, these categorized autoimmune conditions affect the inflammatory response, generating debilitating pain.  The thoughts shared from aforementioned “members” of this community freely give endless support, reminding us we are never alone.