Winter Warm-up Soup

It is cold up here in the Pacific Northwest! At the beginning of the month, we had some  days where the world was softened with white, sounds muted by the quiet snow. Now it finally feels as if  the heart of winter has passed, and that Spring is just around the corner. But it isn’t here yet, and I look out my window at another grey, wet day.

I haven’t written here for a couple of months. January was full of activity, with both my daughter and my birthday’s, along with all the regular busyness of raising kids.

Then, during  the snow days, both my husband and son got the flu. It hit my little six-year old and held him down for days. It was hard to take care of him at the same time that I felt his suffering, almost as my own. Thankfully that is behind us, and health has been restored!

How do we warm ourselves up and keep our internal fire burning strong through this cold season? As usual, my remedy is born in the kitchen. I had this soup in the crock pot during our snowy days and it truly fortified me for all that I had to take care of. My family LOVES it when I make this, and I know it fortifies them, too.

Rosemary smells amazing. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps keep our memory healthy. Living with Hashimoto’s, a memory boost is much appreciated 🙂  Garlic is a wonder plant. It has anti-bacterial properties that give our GI tract a tune-up. Garlic backs up the ‘good guys’ within our micrbiome – the little world going on within our bodies. Pepper is a powerhouse this time of year. Black pepper helps dry out any excess phlegm in the system. It also gives our internal fire extra pep – something we all need this time of year in the Northern hemisphere.

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ON CUTTING VEGETABLES

I invite you to make this soup. Cutting vegetables is a truly soothing activity, so even if you feel too tired, or too busy to try making this, consider taking a Sunday afternoon, or any time you have free, and doing it anyway. Put on your favorite music, use it as a time to BREATHE deeply and evenly. It always amazes me how centered I feel while I’m cutting vegetables. Maybe having our hands on earth’s bounty somehow makes us feel more connected to the natural environment. Whatever the reason, making this soup feels like a healing activity for me. And it is YUMMY.

RECIPE for WINTER WARM-UP SOUP

First we create the broth. I have talked about the numerous benefits of bone broth in other posts. It will strengthen you from the inside out!

Broth

1. Buy quality grass-fed beef bones. Neck bones are fabulous, and it’s good if they have some meat still on.

2. Roast a few bones in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, to bring out a yummy flavor.

3. Place bones in large stock pot and cover with 4 quarts of filtered water. You can easily double the amount by adding more bones and more water.

4. Add a couple tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

5. Let it sit without heat for twenty minutes. The vinegar will begin to pull minerals from the bones.

6. Add sea salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.

7. Turn the heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 24 to 30 hours.

Soup Recipe

Slice three organic sweet onions and add them to a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add five cloves of garlic, and lots of fresh rosemary leaves. Sprinkle pepper over the mix. Stir often and let the onions lightly glaze.

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Cut up your veggies. I use lots of zucchini, some red potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, purple potatoes and carrots. Put these veggies into your crock pot. Scoop the top layer of fat off your broth with a ladle and pour it onto your veggies, careful to keep the bones out of the crock pot. Add the onion mixture, a generous amount of additional pepper, a few more garlic cloves, and sea salt to the pot. Browned beef chunks are also an option; I personally like it without beef chunks better, but both ways are good. Simmer on high for five hours, and enjoy. You can turn the heat to low and keep it in the pot for 24 hours, eating as desired. Keeping this in your system for a couple of days will fortify you, warm you up, and make you strong! The picture below shows my soup right as it’s starting to simmer in the crock pot. After it’s cooked, it will look more like stew. Oh so good!

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Halting the Inflammation Train

It is my two year anniversary of being hive-free. Yes, a strange event to have an anniversary for, but if you’ve ever had a health issue that took months or longer to resolve, you can relate. I had hive flair-ups all over my body, every single day, for one year, and then one day they went away, never to return.

During the year when I experienced the hives, I felt tired and groggy constantly, even when I first awoke in the morning. Life was an uphill battle – just the little things took extreme amounts of will to accomplish. I remember looking at the clock at 9:30 am and thinking I am way too tired to make it through this day. Even though I was only thirty-eight, I felt very old, like the best part of life was behind me. Not a fun, or productive, way to live.

Today, while still aware of the underlying condition that caused the hives, I feel vibrant and alive. The here and now is fulfilling. Exhaustion doesn’t hit me until 10 p.m. when I happily crawl under the covers feeling that a rest has been well earned. I’m actually excited about life – I know that while I have already lead a full life with many awesome memories and experiences, the best is yet to come.

What I now know is that an autoimmune disease was part of the underlying cause of the chronic hives. But I believe that at the root of my problem was chronic inflammation – the inflammation was a precursor to the auto-immunity. Our bodies use inflammation as a mechanism of defense against unwanted intruders or pathogens, but if the wrong factors are present (like poor diet and excessive stress) and the inflammation train gets going, it can accelerate to destructive levels. Once this train is going out of control, it is not easy to calm it down. Inflammation is only meant to be turned on when the body is in real danger, not chronically.

Two years ago I did what is called an ‘elimination diet’. For thirty-one days, I ate only organic bone broth soups with vegetables, cooked vegetables, simple 3-ingredient, blueberry smoothies, and an Indian dish called Kitcharee. On day seventeen of this month, the hives did not show up, and I have not seen them since (celebrate).

After the elimination diet, I slowly added foods in, one at a time and only one every three days – it can take three days for the body to adversely react to a food. My body was fine with all the foods I added – granted, I have stayed with a whole-food, gluten and dairy free diet this entire two years. As hard as this sometimes is, I feel so much better without the inflammation, I refuse to get that train going again.

A lot of us live with low levels of chronic inflammation. This presents as sluggishness, a little extra weight on the body, aches and pains, low libido, bloating, and a general lack of passion. It is interesting to consider ways to calm the inflammation, to care for ourselves in such a way that illnesses such as autoimmunity and other chronic yuckiness do not develop in the first place, or to keep the symptoms calm and dormant if they already have.

One simple practice is deep breathing. Christopher Bergland, author of The Athletes’ way: The Biology of Bliss, writes about deep breathing in his article, The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure. This article is about the Vagus Nerve, a very interesting subject. This nerve wanders from the base of the brain down through the body, touching several key organs along the way – including the heart. He writes, “A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone index is linked to inflammation, negative moods, loneliness, and heart attacks.”

He also discusses how diaphragmatic breathing increases vagal tone.

So, pull up a cushion, silence the cellphone, and treat yourself to some deep breathing. Even five or ten minutes a day will give results. First simply observe the current rhythm of your breath without judgement. Due to the hectic pace of modern life, most of us function on a jagged breathing rhythm. After noticing this for a minute or two, begin guiding the inhales and the exhales to a smooth, even rhythm. Counting the length of the inhales and the exhales and nudging them to even is one method. Sometimes it is nice to have the exhales be slightly longer and to envision stress being expelled from the body with the breath out.

This simple exercise will tone the vagus nerve, signalling to the brain and heart that all is well. Practicing regularly has huge impacts on soothing inflammation and promoting well-being – I know from experience.

This is a picture  our family out hiking in August. I am grateful to feel well again, so that I can live my life in the fullest way possible!

 

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Autumn: The Season of Soup and Spice

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I love this time of year in the Northern hemisphere: as the wind grows cooler and the leaves become tinged with the colors of warmth, the Crock pot reappears on my counter, diffusing the scent of spice and delight into the air.

One year ago I was in the middle of my elimination cleanse. After a lifetime of eating a gluten and sugar-rich diet, I constructed my cleanse over the course of a year. Gentle makes sense to me, when dealing with an issue as sensitive as what we eat. Everything we ingest goes through the process by which our cells are built – they regenerate, on average, every seven years. This regeneration process is constant, and the very fabric of our bodies – the cells- are fed by the nutrients extracted from what we eat.

And so, changing our diet, means we are changing ourselves. This metamorphosis requires much support.

In September of 2014 I eliminated practically everything from my diet, including: gluten, sugar, processed foods of any kind- only whole foods were allowed, meaning only ingredient lists of one ingredient.  Recipes such as the one offered here, were allowed, because they were homemade using whole ingredients -no store bought sauces or spice blends.

Soups felt like life-savers.  The healing properties in this soup fortified my weakened small intestine and made me stronger than I have been in many, many years. Allergies, autoimmune conditions, fatigue and thyroid disorders will all be pacified when the gut is strong. Thus, this soup is a powerhouse of healing.

Using homemade bone broth for the stock is where you get the deepest healing value. Slow cooking animal bones extracts minerals that are rejuvenating for our digestive system, cells, and connective tissue. The collagen in the broth literally heals us, from the inside out.

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Cooking it on low heat with the ghee releases the healing properties of this amazing spice. Cinnamon, while adding flavor perfect for this season, also has the power to bust through candida, and kill it. (Candida is out-of-control sugar in the gut- a problem many of us in today’s world face.)

So, put your music on, light your scented candle and savor the Autumn season with this healing soup.

Bone Broth

Ingredients:

4 or 5 beef neck bones – make sure the beef is grass fed

9 cups filtered water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 350. Place bones on a glass baking dish and bake them for 30 minutes to extract flavor. Place roasted bones into a large soup pot. Pour water over the bones. Add the apple cider vinegar – this helps extract the minerals from the bones. Bring pot to a boil. After five minutes of boiling, turn the heat to low and add salt. Allow the bones to cook on low for around 20 hours. You can also use a Crock pot for this process.

Autumn Healing Soup

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash

2 organic sweet onions

3 tablespoons organic ghee

1 tablespoon organic turmeric

2 cups homemade beef broth

1 can organic coconut milk

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon organic cinammon

1 tablespoon sea salt

Directions:

Peel and cube the squash. Steam the squash until easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, cut onions into long slices. Warm ghee in a frying pan (cast iron is the best) and add the turmeric. Warm the ghee and turmeric over a low heat, stirring. When they are blended into a paste, add the onions. Cook onions on low until they are translucent and soft. Place the softened squash, the onions and the broth into a food processor or high-powered blender and puree until smooth. Place this puree into a Crock pot. Add coconut milk, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Simmer the soup on low for three or four hours.

Enjoy, and be healed!

When the Light Shines

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After I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I went through a dark time. It was depressing to try to accept that the lack of energy and brain fog I had been experiencing for almost a year would never go away. Not to mention the horrible hives that covered my skin every morning and evening that had not abated, even after being treated for this condition.

As a person who loves yoga, and understands the value of accepting things as they are, I was frustrated because something within my spirit refused to allow me to accept THIS.

I was so tired. I remember looking at the clock to see that it was 9 am, after getting my little girl off to school, and being totally overwhelmed. 9 am? But, I’m ready for bedtime NOW. You mean I have to make it through at least twelve more hours? The thought was daunting.

It was impossible to explain this to the people in my life. As they had nothing to relate it to in their own experience, I held my tongue, not interested in coming off as lazy on top of everything else. I knew I wasn’t lazy – just TIRED. There is a profound difference.

When I decided that I was not going to accept this state of being – NO WAY – I began researching and learning. As I empowered myself with understanding, it became clear what I had to do. I developed a year-long program to heal myself, because the more I learned about autoimmunity, the more I realized that it would take a year to heal. That the layers of complexity involved would take time to unravel, was clear. The body is remarkable and intricate, a puzzle to solve.

As I gained momentum in my year to heal, the darkness parted and the light shined through. It is amazing how when the light shines into a dark place in our lives, it is more beautiful than we have ever seen it: the brightness in such contrast to the denseness that it pierces, its triumph is invigorating.

As I emerged from the cloud of fatigue I was transformed. As I embraced a year to heal – even though it was hard work – my entire being was renewed. And so, the sickness becomes the catalyst for the greatest growth. If you are tired or sick or sorrowful, know this:

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.

The most massive characters are seared with scars.”

   ~Khalil Gabrin

Once I was well past the overwhelming fatigue, the hives and the despair, and the light had shined into my life, I began to realize: this light has come from a place beyond the ordinary. There is more to it than can be understood with the intellect, or comprehended with the brain. This beautiful mystery is captivating, and gives life a feeling of underlying excitement. To discover the nature of this light is motivating, and engages us beyond our usual senses, carrying us into a state of wonder and aliveness.

“Sunlight fell upon the wall; the wall received a borrowed splendor.

Why set your heart on a piece of earth, O simple one?

Seek out the Source which shines forever.”

    ~Rumi

Conventional medicine and Ayurveda work together

As I study to earn my certificate in Ayurveda lifestyle consulting, I am continually amazed at the vastness of this ancient science. There is so much to learn and share from Ayurveda. This wisdom comes to us from at least five thousand years ago in India – one of the cradles of humanity. When earning my bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, I studied ancient India and have been fascinated with this culture ever since. Modern India is much different than the time when Ayurveda was born. Thousand of years ago in India a mystical and fascinating culture existed – it seems as if the people had a direct line to divine wisdom. We are lucky that we still have access to some of this wisdom, as it has been handed down through the centuries, despite various periods of suppression.

The principles of the system of healing that is Ayurveda are gentle and non-invasive. A lot of the practices are lifestyle oriented, and can be used preventively, before any disease takes root in the body. However, Ayurveda also offers support if you are currently dealing with a disease.

This doesn’t mean that Conventional, American medicine has no place. I take a small dose of a thyroid hormone replacement, because my thyroid gland is sluggish due to Hashimoto’s. This pharmaceutical has greatly improved my quality of life as it offers support to my body. I have reduced my dosage, though, as I’ve embraced Ayurveda in my daily life. I also believe that the healing practices I am learning will save me from having to take more and more medicines down the line. As I care for each system in my body, I am preventing further breakdowns. This is possible for everyone to accomplish.

This doesn’t mean we need to throw all our meds out the window. Rather we can be grateful for them, and for the advances in medicine our culture has produced.

Ayurveda works beautifully in conjunction with conventional medicine, offering us an opportunity to feel truly well. It is all about balance. The most important thing is to empower ourselves with knowledge about how the body works, so that we can take our healing – or preventative – journey into our own hands. From there, we can tailor our lifestyle so that we feel as good, and clear as possible.

Healing is a journey. As we progress along the path, we may find we can reduce the dosages of our meds, as I have done with my thyroid hormone. I also have been able to eliminate Benadryl and anxiety reducing medicine through following a healing protocol, so that I now only take the one medication. Everyone can achieve similar results, over time. This does take work. And just like any good work, the rewards are satisfying and real.

Ayurveda recommends lifestyle modifications in every area. As I learn more and more, I will continue to share here. Healing, learning and sharing are my passion. Every person deserves wellness. As we heal individually, we elevate the state of humanity as a whole.

Become the Captain of Your Destiny

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I talked about how horrible I was feeling in 2013. I haven’t yet mentioned that I actually ended up in the emergency room five times. Each time, my face and/or throat were so puffy and swollen, that my husband and I thought I was going to suffocate. Once in the emergency room, they always pumped me full of Benedryl and a steroid, and the puffiness went down. They sent me away with the advice to take Benedryl, and the diagnoses of an ‘allergic reaction’. We walked out of the emergency room – usually hours later- with the knowledge that I had experienced some sort of allergic reaction, with absolutely no idea what triggered it. This left me in constant, mild state of panic.

My doctor ordered allergy testing, and a couple of things showed up, like oatmeal (are you kidding me?? I have been eating oatmeal my whole life with no reaction, until recently, I was thinking.) Upon doing tons of research, I discovered that our immune systems are like the armed forces, and we actually have four different teams. When conventional medicine does allergy testing, they typically only test one of the teams. So, mine showed that I was just fine with gluten, but I now understand that my body was strongly reacting to gluten with an immune system team, other than the one they tested for.

Keep in mind, that I have never had a problem with food allergies. Well, they tell you that allergies can develop at any time in your life, but they don’t explain why or how. They simply arm you with an epi-pen and tell you to have it on hand at all times, and that you can always call 911. That’s great that I am equipped to handle an emergency, but I was not okay with living my life on the edge like this. I needed to know why and how this change in my body had occurred. The answer surprised me. I will share it all on this blog, over time. I will also discuss how all of this relates to auto-immunity.

The result of my year to heal, is that I no longer experience hives, and I no longer live in fear of a horrible allergic reaction. It feels like a miracle.

Even if you aren’t experiencing full blown allergic reactions, like I was, your body may be having internal issues, and sending you subtle signs, that will later degenerate into disease. Not good. Where does this leave the average person?

I believe that a steady, slow healing program is in order for many of us. We don’t need fad diets that melt the pounds away quickly, or short-term solutions to looking or feeling better. A year is a good amount of time to give yourself for the healing journey, and then the new ways will be deeply ingrained, changing your life forever – and changing the last third of your life profoundly. I believe a total body, multi-system year of healing accompanied by lifestyle changes, can eliminate future calamities such as cancer, lupus, MS and even Alzheimer’s. In this way, we become captains of our own destinies.

When we are captains of our own destinies, life takes on a whole new level of intrigue. With elevated energy levels, we can pursue the things that make life exciting. We can learn to play an instrument or plan an adventure trip, for example. If we’re just struggling to get through the day, the bonuses of life seem overwhelming, like who has energy for that? When our systems are healed, and our bodies are working properly, even our way of thinking is changed in a positive way. We actually see the world differently. What once may have made us feel uncomfortable, or even anxious, now seems exciting and doable. We are truly driving our own ship, instead of simply holding on for dear life, and letting it drive us.

In the next post, I will explain the first step I took, in my Year To Heal.