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!

To Calm Inflammation and Relieve Stress

me sillouhette

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

I could only quit SUGAR after understanding THIS

So, here I was, faced with the news that I had developed food allergies and autoimmunity, and that I just had to live with these facts and get prepared for a  slow ride into the darkness of ever-worsening disease. Refusing to accept this descent, I dug in and researched. I was suddenly fascinated with the question: How does my body really work?

All my life I had taken for granted that my body worked well –  I had never questioned how. But, now that it seemed to be breaking down, I had to know. I believe life is to be enjoyed and savored. I now realized that to continue this way of living, I better get in touch with the mechanics of this body, because it truly is our vehicle, our vantage point.

One game changing piece of information I discovered is: we don’t actually have one brain, we have two, and if that second brain is unwell, expect chaos.

The second brain is located in the gut, and communicates with the first brain (the one in the head) by a long nerve, called the Vagus Nerve.The Vagus Nerve begins in the brain stem, and wanders throughout the ‘viscera’, or the internal organs, specifically the organs of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. This is where the term ‘visceral reaction’ comes from – referring to a feeling deep in the gut.

What exactly is the gut? The GI (gastrointestinal) Tract is a hollow tube that runs through the body, from the mouth, through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, and out through the rectum. This is the part of our inner body that is exposed to the outside world, by the things we ingest through our mouths. The Vagus Nerve is constantly using its sensors to see what’s going on in the gut, and sending messages back to the main brain about the state of affairs.

Interesting!! The term ‘gut reaction’ has a scientific basis. Does this have any connection to autoimmunity and allergies? Oh, yeah. I had stumbled across gold with this knowledge. Let me explain.

There is a section of the GI tract that has a whole lot to do with autoimmunity and that is the small intestine. The small intestine is a tubular structure that winds back and forth, so although it is called ‘small’ it is actually quite long. This very important organ has a wall that is not very thick, and that can be delicate. Large particles are not meant to escape this wall, they are meant to be broken down into tiny molecules that our body can use as energy. Anything we can’t use, is supposed to pass into the colon from here, and be expelled.

The problem arises when the wall of our small intestine becomes compromised, because when this happens, large molecules – usually protein chains – escape the intestinal wall and are released into our bloodstream. Now our second brain is shouting out, ‘Call in the troops!’ The troops – the immune system – rev up to annihilate these intruders. When this continues to happen over time, the immune system becomes overactive. In a later post I will go into more detail about how this eventually develops into autoimmunity and food allergies.

In this post, I am shining the spotlight on an unwanted visitor in the GI tract, one that I picture like an evil octopus –  actually, a team of evil octopi – that once introduced, will hold onto the inside of your gut, happy to have found such an awesome home. This evil octopi team is called yeast – once it’s out of control, the term is candida. And quite simply, the culprit is SUGAR. Sugar will destroy the intestinal wall and cause great havoc. That’s right, yeast will destroy the intestinal wall, making it permeable so that large molecules go where they are not supposed to go. Talk about a bad gut feeling.

In my year to heal, the first thing I did in January, was to totally eliminate processed sugar in any form from my diet. Was this hard? At first, yes. And let me tell you, candida is a real bugger to defeat. It took me 9 months to finally kill this invader, and only when I was victorious in this battle, did my hives finally stop.

Step one in your year to heal: Take your sugar bowl, tell it thank you for the good times, and throw out the window. And don’t look back.