Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thoughts on Conversion

This afternoon as I was ripping staples out of some chairs I am trying to reupholster, for some reason the idea of a cheeseburger from Burger King popped into my mind. It could be that my Candida control diet makes me think of forbidden foods when I am bored but I don't want to ponder on that too much because it will only give me processed food cravings. Alas...

Any who, after the cheeseburger at Burger King thought, a memory emerged from the brain fog of my best friend in 5th and 6th grade. Shira was Jewish and an only child which made her exotic in my eyes. Plus, since her mom was single, she was also alone a lot which meant free wandering all over our neighborhood and lots of 7/11 Slurpees paid for with change absconded from our parent's dressers. Occasionally I got to go to synagogue with Shira and her mom on Friday nights which was THE COOLEST THING EVER! I enjoyed the ritual and the songs and "reading" a book backwards, the numerous celebrations, but best of all...they had food! After the service was over there was a social hour where they served a potluck feast, which in my opinion, was vastly superior to the LDS services I attended each week.

Here began my religious crisis. In my 10 year-old estimation, Judaism was way cooler than Mormonism and I determined that as soon as I was able to, I would convert. Shira certainly doubted my sincerity and explained to me exactly how difficult it was to become a Jew. I am not sure she was correct in all her statements but it sounded pretty painful. Either way, I was still somewhat determined to follow that path until the Burger King incident.

Often my family would take Shira with us when we went out to eat and treated her to dinner, and the same was true for Shira's mom. Up until that point while I recognized and respected my friends religious traditions, I certainly wasn't expecting them to be applied to me. Back at Burger King I hungrily ordered my cheeseburger only to have, indignity of indignities, my order stricken from the receipt because, I was informed later, Shira's mom didn't feel comfortable paying for a meal that was not Kosher. I was shaken to my core and as I sullenly ate my tasteless, plain hamburger that seemed ever so dry that day, I decided that I was happy being LDS; at least I could eat cheeseburgers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Start of A New Journey

So long, farewell! Photo credit

This last year has been one of learning and preparation for me. As I gently waded into the world of Real/Traditionally prepared foods I knew that I was barely touching the surface of my journey to health. Initially I started being drawn to traditional foods because of my daughters difficulty in digesting food and then as I began to learn and research, the pieces of the puzzle came together for me as well. All the years I struggled with feeling weak and useless could be traced back to one source: Candida albicans.

When I learned about the havoc that Candida can do to a weakened immune system it was made clear to me that all the symptoms I had been experiencing were related. Test after test with no result over the course of years were so frustrating! My Dr.'s said that I was in great health, but I could not understand how it could normal to feel achy, fatigued and irritable ALL the time. I played with many different diets: vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, grain free and now I think I have finally figured out what I need to do.

Enter, Bee's Candida Diet. I tried a different Candida cleanse earlier in the year and failed miserably. It was awful and had a colon cleansing element that I could, very literally, not stomach. Bee's diet is the most intense I have ever seen, but it is also the most comprehensive. The diet is on board with traditional foods preparation so I don't have to change anything and Bee's website has helpful tools to manage what you are eating. The diet can be broken down into a few key elements:
  • The Diet: NO grains, dairy (except butter or ghee), fruit (except lemons and limes), sugar or sugar substitutes (except Stevia), legumes, nuts or seeds, vinegar (except raw/unfiltered ACV), starchy vegetables. LOTS of good fats! LOTS of protein! Eating a strict diet will keep the Candida from growing. I will modify by allowing some low carb. nuts and seeds in moderation and some berries as well unless my body tells me not to.
  • Supplements: This element of the program along with eating lots of good fats is intended to repair your immune system. In addition to the Cod Liver Oil I am already taking I will need to add: Nutritional Yeast flakes for B vitamins and Niacin, Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Vit. C and Vit. E.
  • Time: People suffering from Candidiasis are often born with it if their parents also had it so Bee recommends that you stay on the diet for 1 month for every year of your life. For me that means twenty six and a half months.
  • A Healing Balance: The website gives you information to help individualize your diet plan, which is one of the reasons I think this will work for me. According to my calculations I need to be eating 80 grams of protein, 200-280 grams of fat, and ONLY 64 grams of carbohydrate a day. I use FitDay to keep me on track.
One of the things I especially love about this diet are that there are NO awful anti-fungals (Oregano oil, ick!) and NO colon cleanses. Bee says that you can do at home colonics if you want but they are not required for the diet. Phew! I also love that this program is provided at no charge; that is a rare occurrence these days.

What will this mean for my family? Not a whole lot. Since I have been mostly grain free for about a month now I have learned to make substitutions/snacks for myself and when it comes to family meals, I just make sure to either make meals primal/paleo OR I put grains on the side so I can abstain if I wish. How about dining out? Today when I went to lunch with my father-in-law I ordered egg-drop soup and shrimp with bean sprouts, no rice. Last week at a different restaurant I just got a salad with chicken (I will need to bring my own salad dressings however).

Bee recommends keeping a journal to keep track of your progress and I think I will do that here now that I have my own personal blog space. I hope that you won't mind. The first step is list all of the "Symptoms, diseases, and malfunctions you have before starting the program." I am afraid to list all of these for all the world to see, but here goes:
  • Chronic vaginal yeast infections. This is probably my most annoying symptom in that it is hard to ignore. Before I got pregnant this spring I could get an infection and cure it with topical cream or other natural cures, which I was doing every month; now, however, I cannot cure them with anything. It is very depressing.
  • Chronic and extreme fatigue no matter how much sleep I get
  • IBS symptoms: gas, bloating, occasional constipation/diarrhea with no known cause
  • Abdominal cramps after eating
  • Tinnitus, or ringing of the ears that never goes away
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Sugar cravings
  • Insulin Resistance/Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Extreme irritability
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Itchy skin
  • Acne
  • Foul body odor
  • Hot flashes
  • Numbness/tingling in hands and feet
Yeah, this is a long list and most will probably be skeptical that they can come from a simple yeast overgrowth. Remember, though, I have been tested over and over to determine the medical cause of these numerous symptoms and aside from being diagnosed as insulin resistant there is no known cause. Doing this strict of a diet is daunting but I feel like God is leading me in this direction and has been for a while. I desperately want to be healthy for my family and my own sake. Starting next week, I go into full on Candida diet. Wish me luck! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pondering Helping Hands on October 15th

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and the 15th is set aside as a day of remembrance. A friend of mine who helped me through my miscarriage started a non-profit called The Amethyst Network to provide physical and emotional support for women and families during and after a miscarriage. I asked her if there was anything that I could write about that would help the cause and she said to write about what people said or did that was helpful for me during my miscarriage experience.

When I start to think about it I don't remember things that people said so much as things that people did, or didn't do. Pregnancy loss is a difficult thing for many people who haven't experienced it which, in my experience, led people to say or do nothing rather than risk offending. I think a loss like this really shows you who your real friends are. A father writing about his wife's pregnancy loss and the emotional turmoil he went through with that experience made a very true statement: "Compassion breeds an amazing amount of tolerance." If you truly care for someone experiencing a loss, seek to find compassion in your heart and it will mold you into what that person needs you to be.

Here are some guidelines based on my experience that might help others:
  • Validate the loss: A man in my church who had lost his one year-old son last year approached me and with tears in his eyes he told me how sorry he was. I will forever be grateful to that man for crying with me and letting me know that my pain was as valid as his own.
  • Make your words tangible: I received many emails, but only two sympathy cards and one letter containing an article on miscarriage.While the emails were kind, the mail was so comforting. Being able to hold someones kind thoughts in my hands was so gratifying.
  • Be physical: I am not a hugger but I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have someone genuinely embrace me when I could barely speak. One evening I had four women, whom I barely knew, embrace me one after the other because they were so sorry for my loss and wanted to comfort me in some small way. I could feel that in their hugs.
  • Feed them: Don't make a family who has suffered a loss ask first. Food is SO very comforting. After I lost the baby I struggled so much just trying to read a recipe and everything I made tasted bad. I have since learned that this is normal when grieving but at the time not being able to cook made me feel like a failure. Having people bring my family meals eased a burden.
  • Judge Not: Need I even say this? Everyone grieves on their own time line and just because someone doesn't look like they are grieving does not mean that they are totally fine. The best way to tell if someone needs help is to ask them, in person, how they are healing.
  • Be Peaceful: When you are around someone whose life is in turmoil I don't recommend you dish to them about how horrible your life is or discuss the injustices heaped on you by mankind. #1 The person you are venting to probably won't be able to validate you and #2 All your doom and gloom is probably going to make them feel worse.
  • Keep In Touch: When something awful happens people are often blessed by an outpouring of support from their community but after a few weeks pass by there is an assumption that it is time to move on. As I said before grieving can be a long and drawn out process and knowing you are still thought of even months after the event, is very comforting. I have a friend who contacted me every few days or at least once a week to see how I was doing, and I love her for that.
The following is an excerpt from a card that was written to me and Andrew that I read often for comfort:
 May you gain wisdom as you pass through this difficult time. You already had that baby visualized in your arms. I am so sorry. Let the waves pass over you. Sometimes it may hit you when you least expect it. Always know that there are those who are aware and who will listen to your sorrow and try to bear you up.
The Lord loves you and is mindful of your grief. May you be comforted by His love. May the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ help you to see His hand in your lives.
 The woman who gave this card to me didn't know me extremely well, but knowing the pain of pregnancy loss herself, she was inspired to write these words to me. Every time I see her she has asked me about my healing in such a kind and gentle way. She is a perfect example of that compassion that breeds tolerance. I pray that we can all learn to be so.

The Amethyst Network is "a nationwide network of doulas working together to support parents during and after miscarriages." If you would like to support them in this worthy cause please donate on their web page.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Controversial Monday: Save your drippings!

Warning: Chronic dieters and nutrition gurus, I am about to break your brain. 

When I was growing up my mom would always use empty vegetable tin cans to collect fat drippings, and then they would just sit there, for days, weeks...inevitably they would eventually be thrown out but I always wondered: "It sure seems a waste. Can you do anything with it?" Now that I know about traditional food preparation the answer is a very enthusiastic "YES! And it is delicious!"


Back in the day just about everyone used to cook with the leftover drippings from cooking meat. It was almost a sin to throw it out! To have a dairy cow or access to butter was a luxury. Processed vegetable spreads were nonexistent. So what happened? A brief history lesson...

Answer: The Lipid Hypothesis. In the mid-nineteenth century the term was coined to explain that the cause of blood lipid accumulation on the walls of arteries. I am sure we can all remember seeing the commercials for Lipitor and their lovely illustrations of this effect. The idea is that eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat will raise blood cholesterol and cause the plaque accumulations leading to high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. The only problem with this is that there were never any double-blind studies done to test this theory; it was accepted as fact in the 1980's by consensus of the medical community without the support of properly conducted scientific experiments to prove or disprove the theory.

In the early twentieth century people starting switching from cooking with traditional animal fats to factory hydrogenated vegetable fats like shortening and vegetable oil because they were cheaper and they had the added benefit of a neutral flavor and a seemingly longer shelf life.* Until the 1970's most people that used shortening and vegetable oils used them because they were cheaper. The acceptance of the lipid hypothesis changed all that and animals fats were labeled as "bad" while vegetable fats were labeled as "good." While there were always critics of the lipid hypothesis, until the late 1990's and what I call the "Oreo Controversy" when hydrogenated or trans fats were proven to contribute greatly to atherosclerosis by raising the bad Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and lowering the good High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.** 

Aha! So, all cholesterol isn't bad for you! Now, back to lard, schmaltz, tallow, ghee, butter and all the other lovely traditionally used fats... Let's look at the chemical composition of Lard (rendered pig fat), shall we?
...lard is 40 percent saturated, 50 percent monounsaturated, and contains 10 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is also one of our richest dietary sources of vitamin D.***
 Lard is mostly an unsaturated fat which is GOOD, but that saturated fat also has benefits:
Saturated fatty acids, particularly medium chain fatty acids such as lauric and capric acids, have been found to play an important role in supporting the immune system. Studies of the effects of specific fatty acids on serum cholesterol levels have shown that of the three most common saturated fatty acids in tallow and lard, only myristic acid increases the level of cholesterol in the blood substantially, whereas stearic acid has no effect, and the polyunsaturated linoleic acid decreases it. ****
To put it mildly, animals fats aren't BAD for you nor will they make you fat. In fact, they may even help you lose weight. Animal fats are also fantastic for cooking! If you haven't tried zucchini fried in lard, you haven't lived. Bacon drippings are a great substitute for butter in any savory recipe, especially corn bread! If you have chicken drippings or rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) you can use it to enhance the flavor of anything poultry based; beef tallow is supposed to also have the same effect on beef products. Indians swear by Ghee (clarified butter) as their oil of choice.

If you read this and just can't wait to find yourself some lard and make a pie crust to die for, be aware that many commercially available lards are hydrogenated and have added fillers to make them more stable. Check the labels and a good rule of thumb is that if it isn't refrigerated, don't buy it. Also, be aware that while fat is where all the vitamins are stored, it is also where most of the toxins are stored. If you want to get the most benefit out of eating animal fats, buy pastured, or at least organic, meats and fats.