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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My Commitment

The National Institute of Health estimates that at least 23.5 million people in the US suffer from an autoimmune disease, and that this number is on the rise. 75% of these people are women. After interviewing dozens of experts in the field of autoimmunity, Amy Meyers M.D. stated that “This is an epidemic.” What is happening? Why are our own immune systems turning against us?

Experts agree that a few factors need to be in place to cause an autoimmune disease. They are: genetic predisposition, a leaky gut, and an additional trigger such as stress or a parasite, like candida. In other words, we may carry the gene for autoimmunity, but a perfect storm must occur in order for the gene to ‘turn on.’

I have lived this statistic, and when something like this actually happens to you, statistics take on a whole new meaning. I feel passionately about getting the word out there that it is possible to heal.

Since sending my disease into remission through lifestyle changes over time, I have studied and researched the available information on autoimmunity. I believe that what is happening is that a combination of factors that are a part of modern life have caused this epidemic. The good news is, we can protect, and heal ourselves.

This is not to say that modern medicine does not have a place, because it does. I still take a thyroid hormone replacement to help supplement this important hormone in my body because over time, my thyroid gland has suffered enough abuse from my own immune system, that it needs the extra boost.

But, there are so many factors to autoimmunity that traditional medicine does not address. To feel truly well, these factors must be looked at, and healed.

We are living in a time unlike any other in the history of humankind. Life is faster, more connected, and more full of information than ever before. While this can be good, it can also take its toll on sensitive individuals. Our systems are in overdrive, and it is impacting our health in serious ways.

Being sensitive does not have to be synonymous with weak. It does however, require one to take extra care of the body, mind and spirit, especially in today’s fast-paced and over-stimulating world. Because if we don’t, we will live with fatigue and apathy, as we hold the door open for more autoimmune diagnoses. Simple, subtle lifestyle changes can have huge benefits in this regard.

Even if you are taking your prescribed medication, how you FEEL is a super important indicator to how well your body is functioning. Tune in and listen to yourself. We only get one body in this life, and it is our vehicle for this experience.

I feel passionate about keeping this conversation going, especially now that I know that this is an actual epidemic, affecting mainly women. Remember, even if you don’t have an autoimmune disorder, the number is on the rise, so preventative measures are important. I hope the articles I post here will offer lifestyle suggestions and recipes that may act as healing salve over this issue.

Let’s do this together, and heal our lives!

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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The Healing Power of Yoga

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I have been practicing yoga for over twenty years. Teaching for the past two has been an amazing experience. Going into the yoga room is like pressing the pause button on time – as we settle into the breath, synchronizing its rhythm with the movements, our worries fall away and stress melts. We stretch, twist and bend. We push our personal boundaries as we expand into the poses.

Lying still for five to ten minutes at the end of class allows the benefits of the practice to sink in, body, mind, and spirit. We leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to enter back into daily life with a whole new perspective.

If you’ve never tried yoga, I recommend finding a studio and giving it a try. This is an excellent way to manage stress, that thief of health and wellness. It may not be possible right at this moment to eliminate daily stress, but it is possible to control our reaction to it. The breath awareness and coordinated poses that yoga offers will give you a new way of dealing with life. It transforms us from the inside out.

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.