When Springtime throws you a Wintry Day

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Springtime in the Pacific Northwest is never predictable. Last week my five-year old and I met friends at the beach for a sunny day that satisfied my Vitamin D craving, and more; today, the sky is characteristic grey, a cold wind is making the leaves shimmy, and I think it may rain.

When I saw today in the forecast, I was actually happy. A soup day!

I had been a pescatarian for a very long time – almost twenty-five years – when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This means that the only meat I ate was fish, on occasion. But, after the diagnosis, I quit eating gluten completely and after so many years of being mainly vegetarian, I realized that I just may need some animal products. The healing protocol I designed for myself, based on the amalgamation of many experts, included bone broth soup.

This week is my two-year mark of being 100% gluten free, and I feel so much better that it still feels like a miracle. If you’re interested in exactly why I cut the gluten, check out my earlier post entitled “The Gluten Piece.” Here, I will only say that while some are still skeptical whether leaky gut syndrome  exists, I am convinced that it is quite real, and able to be healed.

In essence, leaky gut is when the wall of our small intestine becomes compromised due to food sensitivities. When the intestinal wall is irritated, it can become more porous than it should be. Small particles escape into the bloodstream and alert our immune systems, leading to inflammation, and if left unchecked, autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s. Modern day gluten causes food sensitivity in some people, due to its difficulty to break down by the digestive system. I say ‘modern day’ because the gluten we eat is not the same product that our grandparent’s ate, but that’s another subject altogether.

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, I invite you to cut gluten out of your diet – 100% – there is absolutely no grey area on this one. Give yourself about a week, and then check in with yourself. Have any digestion issues improved, even somewhat? Have you noticed a difference in your energy levels, even subtle? If so, you may want to continue your gluten fast, and work on repairing your gut.

Bone broth is a powerhouse in this respect. Homemade bone broth contains numerous minerals and amino acids that are readily usable by the body to restore damaged tissue in the small intestine, connective tissues, and other organs. It is a truly healing food – I can attest to this firsthand after healing from the state of total exhaustion and inflammation resulting in daily hives – to a state of wellness I have never experienced in my life. The bone broth has been one component in my healing, and an important one. Using organic ingredients whenever possible is important, to minimize chemicals and toxins. I still eat meat rarely, having been vegetarian for so long. But the broth can be amazing in veggie soups too!

As the Mother of two kids – my little girl is eight and my son is five – and the wife of a big, hungry man, my soups have come in handy. Tonight, my family will enjoy a beef soup that has been simmering in the crock pot all day.

Here is the recipe. If you get handed a Wintry day this Spring, give it a try.

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Bone Broth

4 or 5 Grass-fed beef marrow or neck bones (organic if possible)

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

12 cups filtered water

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 pinches black pepper

To prepare:

Bake the bones in an oven heated to 350 for 30 minutes to improve flavor. Place bones in a large stock pot along with the water and vinegar. Allow to soak for 20 minutes to extract minerals. Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Boil for three or four minutes and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 12 to 24 hours. Pour broth through a strainer so that only the liquid remains.

 

Wintry Day Beef Soup

2 large red onions

8 peeled cloves garlic

2 tablespoons sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves

Lots of fresh thyme

One pound steak cut grass-fed beef chunks

4 large yams

4 large zucchini

2 cups baby carrots

Coconut oil

To prepare:

Cut sweet potatoes and zucchini into large, bit-sized chunks. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. Add carrots and fry on medium heat for fifteen minutes. Pour bone broth into crock pot. Add vegetables, including garlic and and basil. Turn crock pot on high.

Cut onion into long pieces. Warm onions on low in 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. When onions become translucent, add beef and sprigs of thyme, and fry until beef is cooked on the outside, adding a couple pinches of salt. Place meat and onions into soup. Add 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves and stir well.

Cook soup on high heat for six hours. Serve to someone you love, and let the healing begin!

 

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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!

To Calm Inflammation and Relieve Stress

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I just listened to a talk by Dr. Datis Kharrazian. Have you heard of him? He is a genius, and he seems to genuinely care about helping people with autoimmune disorders. He researches extensively, as well as maintaining a private practice.

Today he said that “Stress is a powerful immune triggering event.” This is an extremely important statement. He talked about environment, relationships and thoughts, as potential stress inducers. And he kept reiterating how real the stress/autoimmune connection is, and that it is now proven scientifically. That’s right, it is proven that stress causes a chemical reaction in the body that turns on, and turns up, autoimmunity. When we consider how much stress people are under in today’s world, that becomes a big wow statement.

I believe that lifestyle choices are the most important aspect in treating inflammatory issues, including autoimmunity.

And so, even though I still take my thyroid hormone prescribed by my doctor, because my thyroid gland is sluggish and I need that extra boost, I feel 100% better now than I did one year ago, even though I had been on this prescription for nine months at that time. This is because the factor that makes us feel the worst is the actual autoimmune mechanism itself, which is in no way affected by the hormone replacement. We can take that little pill, and get a boost in our thyroid hormone, which will definitely help us to feel better – provided we are converting and absorbing said pill, which is a subject for another post. However, it is impossible to achieve true healing and wellness unless we calm the autoimmune reaction and the inflammation.

This is where lifestyle comes in. The human body is so amazing; it is delicate, yet strong and resilient. When we are sick, we feel it; we are tired, in pain, irritable, joyless. And when we are well, the good feeling extends into every layer of our being. Our cells seem to dance with life, we have passion. We are more aware, more conscious, and even more spiritual. Taking care of our bodies is paramount – we only get one. I love the saying by Mae West, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” In order to ‘do it right’, we must be well!

Dr. K. talked about how when there is inflammation in the body, the most vulnerable tissue is that of the brain. Let that sink in for a moment, and then ask yourself, “is it important to calm the inflammation in my body?”

When asked for tips to keep our brains healthy, he again referred to stress management. He talked about ‘facing the problems in your head.’ That is also a subject for another post, as Ayurveda has excellent remedies for anxiety. Exercise, Dr. K. recommended. But, If you are really tired and worn out, this can be easier said than done.

One key vitamin that people with autoimmunity consistently lack enough of, is Vitamin D. Supplementing with a good vitamin D3 is very helpful. But, the best source of vitamin D comes to us in the form of sunlight. On the next sunny day, I invite you to go outside, and take a walk. Just walk right out your door and go around the block or down the road. Feel the light on your face, and know that the full spectrum of light is reaching into your very cells and healing them. Walk far enough that your heart gets pumping a little. This simple activity can change our lives!

If you are already a walker, hiker, biker or runner, that is fabulous. If you have autoimmunity, though, be careful not to over do it, as too much exercise can tax the adrenals, which in turn affects the thyroid. Allow your exercise to be nurturing.

A good walk or hike in the sun is some of the best medicine out there! If we can walk in nature, all the better, as the fresh air is wonderful for us. It is the simple things that bring about deep and lasting healing.

Father and son

“Let thy Food be thy Medicine”

In Ayurvedic thought, the root of all disease lies in the digestive tract; faulty digestion leads to the buildup of a toxic sludge in the intestines, that eventually leaks into the blood and other bodily systems. Interestingly, this was the same line of thought taken by the father of modern western medicine, Hippocrates. Hippocrates was born in 460 BC on the Greek isle of Cos. Being among the first physicians to contend that disease was not in fact inflicted directly by God, but rather was the result of natural causes, beginning with poor digestion, Hippocrates was a thought pioneer. Thus, his famous quote “Let thy food be thy medicine.”

Ayurveda offers the same advice.

In order to practice this form of medicine, a person must bring awareness to the process of cooking. The recipe I created for this article includes steps beyond the usual chopping and cooking. At first glance this may seem a lengthy process – but the process is part of the medicine. As we use cooking as a time to relax and unwind, the time taken for oneself becomes a healing practice.

The first step in this recipe is obtaining the food. I went to my local Farmer’s Market last Saturday. Ambling through the white tents, letting my eyes feast on the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, inhaling the scents, was a healing experience in and of itself. My kids also enjoyed it!

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We bought fat nectarines and sat on chairs, listening to live music – a quartet playing traditional Scottish, folk music – as juice from the fruits ran down our chins and the sun shined on our faces. I took home a basket of vegetables that was comforting just to look at.

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This experience was medicine. If you have access to a Farmer’s Market – use it. Otherwise, finding a place to buy organic vegetables and spices is crucial. At first you may feel as if you’re spending a bit more money on food, but you will save that cash in co-pays for doctor’s visits down the road.

When you are home and ready to begin cooking, take a moment to prepare your space. Turn on some of your favorite music that is both soothing and energizing to you. Perhaps light a scented candle. Lay out all the ingredients on the list, so that everything is at your fingertips. Work with a nice, sharp knife. If you don’t have a decent chef’s knife, buying one is a good investment. It is important that the preparation of your food is pleasurable.

As you chop vegetables, take this opportunity to find the rhythm of your breath. In our hectic modern lives, this practice is easily forgotten. Cooking is the perfect time to cultivate a breath of ease: deep and smooth. Chop and slice with awareness. Rein in your wondering mind; the bills can wait, as can the to-do lists. This is YOUR time. Hold your attention steady. Notice the amazing purple of the beets as you slice into them. Inhale the scent of the simmering spices as you stir. Allow time to slow down as you notice ONLY this moment.

The recipe calls for making your own spice paste, something I will continue to offer in articles on this site. While it is easier to purchase already mixed spices pastes, it is well worth making your own, whenever you feel in the mood to do so. Thus, you are ensure that no added yucky-ness or fillers are in you paste. In addition, it is a healing experience to stir your spices, inhaling the aroma as you go. The herbs and spices we use in the recipes on A Year To Heal, are truly medicinal.

For example, coriander seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. The oils within these little seeds are FULL of minerals including iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Minerals are sorely lacking in the standard, modern diet. This may seem insignificant, but allow me to assure you, it IS NOT. Hashimoto’s is associated with mineral deficiency. The body needs minerals such as selenium and zinc to produce thyroid hormone, which affects every cell in the body. Minerals are essential to good health. Coriander seeds also provide oil that aids in smooth functioning of the liver and the bowels. They also contain anti-histamine properties, staving off the dreaded anaphylaxis, as well as hives. Yes, these little seeds are medicine. As are the leaves of their plant, which is cilantro. Cilantro is a true super food, with the ability to bind to heavy metals in our bodies (in today’s world, we have no shortage of those) and usher them out. Thank you, cilantro!

I will discuss other spices and their healing properties in future articles.

For now, let’s get cooking. And once you are sitting to eat, remember to enjoy your food, chewing thoroughly. As you dine, save discussions about worrisome subjects for another time. Ingesting this meal is a time to relax and enjoy. Sink into the moment, relish the food, and the sensation of nourishing yourself. You are alive, and life is good!

cilantro

INGREDIENTS

4 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter – can be found at a health food store or ordered online)

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 Tablespoon cumin powder

1/2 Tablespoon turmeric powder

1/2 Tablespoon sea salt

1 Tablespoon finely chopped, fresh, ginger root

1 clove garlic chopped

1 can of pure coconut milk

2 or 3 beets, chopped into cubes

2 or 3 carrots, chopped into wheels

2 large yams, chopped into cubes

1 sweet onion, sliced along the natural lines of the onion, so that they are long and slightly curved

Half a cup of fresh cilantro leaf

1 cup cooked Basmati rice (soaking the rice for 4 to 6 hours prior to cooking it makes it easier to digest. Drain the water                    you soaked it in before cooking. If you are on autoimmune paleo diet, skip the rice of course)

To Prepare:

Chop all your vegetables. Place the potatoes and beets in a steamer, and begin steaming. After about five minutes of active steaming, add the carrots. Prepare your rice, and put it on to cook. In a cast iron frying pan (or whatever you use – Teflon not recommended), heat the ghee on low heat. Add the coriander seeds and stir. When the seeds begin to pop, add the cumin and turmeric and continue stirring. When the paste has blended (you will still see the seeds, but the spices will look blended), add the onions, ginger and garlic. Continue to stir. When the onions look translucent, add the coconut milk and salt, and stir well. Now, add the steamed veggie mix. Stir everything together. Let this simmer on a medium-low heat for around fifteen minutes. You will know it is done when the beets are easily pierced with a fork, and the coconut milk and potatoes have taken on a vibrant color. Place the rice in the center of your plate, and pour your creation over the top, adding the fresh cilantro at the last moment.

Enjoy, and allow your food to be your medicine!

A Brand New You: Part Two

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In my last post, I talked about the concept of the subtle body. I defined this term as the energetic field that underlies our physical body.

Quantum Physics has shown that the building blocks of matter are actually bits of energy. This opens up a fascinating discussion in relation to healing.

Our cells are constantly being recreated. I have read many scientific articles discussing this process. One scientist that explains it clearly is Margaret Thompson Reece, PhD, Physiologist and Research Scientist. She writes about how it has been proven that most bodily cells are younger than the individual. Certain brain cells, heart cells, and the inner lens cells of the eye last us our lifetimes. The other cells undergo a process of renewal, allowing them to exchange old, tired models for brand new ones. If you average out the amount of time it takes them to do this, you get the number seven. And so, every seven years you essentially become new.

I am proposing that it is possible to affect this process, consciously.

Sure, we can live on autopilot and our cells will do their thing naturally, according to how they did it before. But what happens when something goes awry in this process? Cancer, perhaps.

What if we decide to become more involved in our own renewal process? What if we nurture ourselves in such a way that we can override faulty programming at the cellular level, and actually choose healthy new cells when the time comes for them to be renewed? Imagine the quality of life that becomes possible.

The way to accomplish this is to begin the practice of shifting awareness from its ordinary state, to the higher consciousness that each of us has access to. We can do this in the comfort of our own home, on our own time. It is a matter of taking the time to expand the capacity of our brain, pushing its frontiers and elevating its function from ‘business as usual’ to a consciousness that transcends ordinary thinking.

Simply sit. Breathe. Keep the eyes still, not darting all around. Ask yourself the question: Who am I really? Am I my brain, the mass of grey matter that works better than any computer? The answer may be: Partly, but I am also something more – I can feel it.

I believe that there is one more piece to the body that we can’t easily see. This piece has a natural ethics and a higher intelligence. Let’s call it the conscious self.

Begin to identify with your conscious self. And use this consciousness to engage your brain. Use the brain as the tool it is, and have it direct your cells to BE HEALTHY. Focus attention and energy on visualizing your cells, and how they are the very stuff you are made of. Then, focus on them renewing in a HEALTHY and VIBRANT fashion.

You may laugh at this practice, and call it impossible.

Or, you may try it, and find yourself growing healthier, rather than declining into old age with a groan of pain at all the states of imbalance that sometimes come with it.

 What if over time, you trained your mind to consciously affect the state of your cells. What if?