Happy Anniversary!

To me!  It was a year ago that I discovered how to nourish myself so that my inflammation, which was rampant throughout my body, manifesting as bursitis, sinusitis, allergies, rashes and more, finally subsided.  It’s been a GREAT year, and I feel relieved to know how to finally care for myself so that I am being supported, not damaged, by what I eat!

One of my inflammatory issues was my loss of smell.  Yep, for five or more years I did not have a working sense of smell.   It was freakish and as someone who likes to cook a lot, really saddening.  I was really down about it. I went to see an ear, nose & throat doctor who wanted to do surgery on my nasal passages to open them up (too scary, I couldn’t do it!).  No other treatment was offered by the conventional medical community.

And so, within one week of my dietary changes a year ago this week, my smelling was restored.  It’s been a year with my sense of smell and it still makes me pinch myself to smell the coffee on my way downstairs in the morning.  I am so delighted it’s back–even if I had to endure all kinds of teenage boy smells for two weeks in an RV this summer (can you begin to imagine?!).

In this morning’s Boston Globe there is a disturbing report linking loss of smell to early death (seriously?!).  It interests me that there is no mention of what the loss of smell truly is: chronic inflammation.  So while there is data about people dying, there is also mention of a higher correlation of death among people with “underlying conditions such as heart or lung diseases.”  I believe that is because those people already had a conventional diagnosis of an inflammatory condition.  Many others suffer with chronic inflammation, internal inflammation that might not be on the industry’s radar, with things like arthritis, autoimmune conditions, bursitis, and more, like I did.  So is it fair to say that loss of smell may predict early death?  Well, not really.  Better to say, “chronic inflammation may predict early death.”  Call a spade, a spade!

In this line of work I’ve had the pleasure of meeting others who have lost their sense of smell and who are on a path toward working toward recovering it.  To know we have the potential to minimize inflammation with our food choices is a radical thought.

Consider joining me at Elliott Physical Therapy on Tuesday evening, October 14th at 7 p.m. and/or Wednesday afternoon, October 15th at noon, for a talk entitled, “Ousting Inflammation with Your Fork” where I’ll delve into some of the how-tos of my personal journey to wellness, to help you on your path to quieting the inflammation in your body.  Registration is through http://elliottphysicaltherapy.com or 617-506-7210.  Hope to see you there!

And maybe next year at this time it will be YOUR anniversary!!

Problem Solved

As someone who has trouble with gluten and doesn’t eat dairy (or much of it), let’s just say being invited to a dinner party is kind of tricky.  I often bring an appetizer simply because that way I can be assured that while everyone is noshing on their chips & dip and cheese & crackers that I will have something to nibble on.  And it takes some planning to do that, and time, and sometimes I don’t have either of them.

Oh my goodness, the appetizer problem is finally solved!  I am so excited to share that today I met with my friend, Dan LiBoissonnault, who recently launched Dan’s Power Plant.  He is making artisan raw crackers that are completely delicious!  And to boot, he let me sample his latest “fauxmaggio” made of macadamia nuts and cashews with delicious flavorings.  I can just grab these tasty treats and head out to a party (or enjoy them at home!).  And rather than worry that I am eating something that doesn’t support my body, I know I am eating nutrient dense food, filled with sustaining protein and, most importantly, they are completely yummy.

Problem solved!!  Thank you, Dan!

Check out his products at www.danspowerplant.com.  The Sriracha exSEEDingly RAW crackers are my fave 🙂

photo(4) Dan's Crackers

Shortcut to Goddess

You can tell we’ve made the official transition into fall–even if it doesn’t exactly feel like it outside–when you see apple cider and bags of apples in the market everywhere.  It is so much fun to dive into a crisp delicious apple; my personal favorite is to eat them sliced with a smear of almond butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Another perennial favorite is the apple pie.  In the past, when I have baked an apple pie from scratch, my status in the household can only be described as goddess.  Seriously.  But apple pies take sooooo long to make.  All the cutting of that butter wears on my wrists.  And the pie (and all that work) is gone in just minutes.  Oh and did I mention I can’t eat all that gluten?

But now, I want to present to you what I call “short cut to goddess,” or raw apple cake.  I pulled out the recipe that was given to me by my mother-in-law and paleo-ized it a bit, so it is gluten and dairy free.  I served it up for breakfast this week, and let’s just say the goddess crown is firmly on this head 🙂

The best thing about this recipe is that it is a total snap, and you only need three apples!  It is baked in an 8 X 8 inch pan, and best served in small bowls because it isn’t firm, you can eat it with a spoon.

Enjoy!

Raw Apple Cake, aka Shortcut to Goddess
(Gluten-free & Dairy-free
)

photo(1)

Mix together in a medium bowl:
3 medium apples, peeled and chopped up
1 egg

Add to it:
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
3/4 cup coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar if you like)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Stir it all together and put in a greased (I use sprayable coconut oil for my greasing) 8 X 8 inch pan.  Bake about 40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until knife comes out clean.  It’s pretty amazing right out of the oven!

 

 

Hey, Are You Listening?

This summer I was struggling to think of something to write, and I posed the question at dinner to my husband and teenage boys.  To my surprise, our son piped up, “Your teenage son who refused to believe that there was a connection between dairy and his acne, and how when he eliminated dairy, his acne cleared up.”  Well I was stunned, and felt like I could just retire as a foodie-mom in that very moment; goals achieved, proud mamma.

Once I got over my elation, I reflected on the moment.  What I found most surprising was that he actually noticed.  It is that making of the connection, the listening to the signals that are being sent, that is critical to your path to wellness.  It is important to notice how different foods affect you, even if it isn’t as obvious as a pimple.

It is hard to make the connection between diet and various symptoms, but there is usually a message.  Maybe it is congestion, brain fog, aches and pains, headaches, maybe it is something else altogether.  The point is NOT to take it as a given that you have these symptom(s) just because you are alive, the point is to connect some dots for yourself.

So what is the message you are getting from your body?  Achy joints? Exhaustion? It may be something you’ve seen a doctor for, but perhaps not.  You are a living experiment, a true “n = 1,” so it is up to you to create a hypothesis and gather the data.  There is usually enough of it.  Like my son’s acne, it usually shows up shortly after the irritant.

So start connecting the dots and get on your path to wellness.  Sometimes all it takes is listening to your body, seeing cause and effect.  As my grandmother used to say to her son-in-law (my dad), “get the banana out of your ear” and listen up, because there is a story being told beneath the surface that needs to be heard.

How to know (if it is time to go gluten free)

When I was little and asked my parents how I would know when I found the right person to spend my life with, and I recall hearing the response, “you just know.”  Huh?  How do you just know? It was so mysterious to me, as if everyone had this light switch that would go on…but what if I didn’t have that light switch?  In my case it took some intuition for sure, but it also took the ability to listen to that intuition, what my gut was telling me (and thankfully the universe conspired to support me 🙂

But this post isn’t about figuring out how to choose your life partner.  However, deciding whether or not to go gluten free is a bit like that because you just have to listen, listen, listen to your gut–and by that I mean both your belly and your intuition–and see signs along the way, especially if the decision is one that you are making simply to improve your health, not because you have a certain diagnosis.

When I ask people how they feel when they eat gluten they often don’t know.  Some people haven’t seen the signs along the way that gluten is hurting them.  So, for those of you wondering, here is a list of things you might consider after consuming gluten:  do you feel bloated? gassy?  have brain fog? skin rashes? inflammation in the joints? neuropathy? ADD? the list is quite long and this is only a sampling.   The point is, sometimes we just don’t hear the body’s loud chorus of issues as being related to anything in particular–we think each symptom is unique and hope it is fleeting.  As in dating, sometimes you just know, but other times you don’t.

I often tell my clients to write down what they are eating and then how they feel after each meal.  It’s a way to make a connection, if there isn’t already one, between what we are feeding ourselves and what how it makes us feel.  This type of food diary can be illuminating.

If you suspect that gluten is indeed a foe, it is time to do a gluten elimination diet.  Yep, take it out, all of it.  Don’t worry, there are so many substitutes, you are going to be fine!  It may be uncomfortable in the beginning, but you’ll fall into a groove of knowing what you can and cannot eat, and maybe find delicious new choices and go-tos.   For example, swap out your big muffin for breakfast with a hard boiled egg or two and a fruit smoothie.  You can substitute your bread and pasta very easily, and explore new grains like quinoa.  Try it for a few weeks.  Then try putting gluten back in your diet and see what happens.  Did it wreak havoc?

Arguably there is enough evidence to support a gluten free lifestyle.   If your body can tolerate gluten you may still consider keeping it out of your diet in order to better support your immune system.

Should you be interested in the accountability and support of my health coaching for your gluten free transition, or to schedule a talk about the how-to’s of gluten free living, email me at fran.karoff@gmail.com.

 

No Girdle Required

Growing up, my grandparents used to visit us pretty regularly, and my grandmother was always quite concerned about my mother’s waistline.  “You should wear a girdle, Diane,” she used to say (seriously were people still wearing girdles then?).  My mom was drawn to Entenmanns’s boxes, which were frequently found on our counter..  Looking good into her 70s and 80s, as a teen I was intrigued.  Nana, as we called her, shared her secret with me:  whenever she felt pounds creeping on, she just laid off the bread and cake.  That was it.  Who knew she was right!

It was with much excitement that I turned to page six of The Boston Globe yesterday to read the article entitled, “Low-carbohydrate diet leads to reduced body fat, study says.”  I had to read the headline twice.  Is “low carb” finally making it into the mainstream?!  This is a big breakthrough in many ways.

Frankly, the science has to catch up with my grandmother.  This is one study that will hopefully lay the groundwork for many more studies that support what has much traction today:  that eating a low carb, high fat diet is actually GOOD FOR YOU. Yes, I know it probably makes you shudder to read that.  So much of the way we feed and nourish ourselves is based on old thinking and bad dietary recommendations that successfully steered us in the wrong direction. 

The study, which compared two groups (one that ate low carb and one that ate low fat–both groups ate many vegetables), revealed that the low carb group’s inflammatory markers (like triglycerides) decreased, they lost weight while keeping muscle mass.  They even lowered their risk of having a heart attack.  Conversely, the people following the low fat diet, the one that many of us have ingrained in our heads from years of believing the myth that saturated fat is bad for us, did poorly.  Their inflammatory markers increased, they lost some weight but not as much as the low carb group, and importantly, they lost muscle mass.

It’s a hard shift to make, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Look hard at your diet, which may mean writing down what you are eating, and try to trim the carbs from it.  Start small, or if you are like me, go cold turkey.  Make sure there is ample saturated fat in your diet (like coconut oil) and make sure your plate is two-thirds vegetables.  Nana was right, it is pretty simple.  You can trim your waistline with that simple trick and never need a girdle at all!

Gluten: Friend or Foe?

It’s time I tackled the topic of gluten.  It’s hard to walk through the grocery store these days without reading “gluten free” or “GF” on something.  The general public is obviously concerned or marketers wouldn’t be alerting people that their goods were free of the stuff.  So what exactly is it, and why make the shift to GF?

When you are eating a baked good and you feel and sense the elasticity of the dough, it is the gluten giving you that mouth feel.  Kind of like the “glue” that binds the whole thing together.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, and also cross contaminate other grains it is grown near (for example, oats).

There are millions of people who suffer from an autoimmune condition, called celiac disease, which is caused by gluten.  It essentially degenerates the absorption in the small intestine, causes bloating, sometimes pain, and a host of other issues.  For those of you suffering from celiac, you already know the ins and outs of being gluten free.  But everyone else may be thinking, “so I don’t have that, so why should I bother?” 

Stop right there!  Even if you don’t have celiac, a significant number people suffer from gluten sensitivities, and could benefit from a gluten free diet.  You could be one of the 6-7% of the U.S. population, or 20 million people, silently suffering from gluten sensitivity–an affliction for which there is no medical test.  Symptoms range from bloating, to brain fog, to digestive distress, to joint pain, and to my personal favorite, neuropathy (tingling or numbness in the extremities).  Many people just cruise along in their everyday lives experiencing these things and not recognizing the cause.

Additionally, gluten has been implicated in exasperating autoimmune diseases; so if you have one, take note.  And in Dr. David Perlmutter’s latest book, Grain Brain, he mentions that gluten in the diet is problematic and causative for neurological issues such as ADD, ADHD, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease–a disease for which there is no cure.  He states that eliminating gluten can bring relief to many of these afflictions, and even minimize or eliminate your chances of developing them.  Compelling, non?

So what to do if you want to make the shift to going gluten free?  You are in luck, because nowadays packaged goods are labeled gluten free (this can be taken to the extreme, for example, when you see “gluten free”on something like milk!).  And “wheat” is generally listed in the allergens of packaged goods. Be careful and read labels, because gluten is sneaky and is in things like barbeque sauce, ice cream, and others.  Here is an article in the Huffington Post listing foods you didn’t think contained gluten.

Naturally, your best bet is to eat whole foods, not packaged.  So switching out your pasta night for a veggie stir fry night (note: try coconut aminos instead of soy which contains gluten), and simply crowding out the gluten in your life with more fruits and veggies is the way to go.  There are loads of breads to choose from, my favorite is Udi’s (usually in the freezer section).

When I switched to being gluten free, it was pretty liberating.  My neuropathy went away and several other issues I was suffering from were mitigated.  I remember walking into a bakery in Portland, Maine (Bam Bam Bakery on Commercial Street) and, after seeing “gluten free” in the window, I asked, “So what here is gluten free?”  EVERYTHING WAS!! 

So, I will leave you with this one thought:  a cookie is still a cookie, even if it is gluten free.  If you have been suffering symptoms of gluten sensitivity like I was, and feel relieved when you make the switch, be careful not to overindulge.  Gluten free does not equate to calorie free 😉

Enjoy the ride!

For more information, or to be coached in a gluten free lifestyle, reach out to me via the “connect” section of my website. 

Summer Treats

Here are a couple of quintessential summer recipes.  Made them both today!  

When it is super hot in July and the mint in the garden is pretty unwieldy, I know it is time for Timothy’s tea.  A special concoction my son and I created last summer to cool off, fashioned after a bottled tea we really enjoyed!


Timothy’s Tea

This is essentially a honey, lemon, ginger and mint tea.   Really refreshing!

Timothy's Tea

Ingredients:
One lemon, halved:
– squeeze half for juice, slice up the other half for cuteness
Two ginger tea bags
1 teaspoon raw honey, diluted in a little hot water (if you like it sweeter, just add more)
handful++ of mint, chopped very well

One half gallon mason jar or the equivalent is required.  Start with the tea bags and hot water (boiled then cooled down a little), allow them to steep for 5-10 minutes.  Then squeeze out as much ginger goodness as you can and discard.  Let it cool for about 10 minutes before adding all the other ingredients.  Pop it in the fridge and let the flavors mix.  When you are ready to serve, just add ice!

Our niece is recovering from an accident and is on a liquid diet, so I mixed up a big jar of the tea to cool her off, and made the summer zucchini squash and basil soup below for some nourishment. 

Creamy Zucchini and Basil Soup
This is a great soup to use up the farm share–everything in it came from this week’s share 🙂
It is paleo, made using coconut milk, but can be made with milk or cream, if you prefer.

zucchini basil soup

Ingredients:
Two pounds of zucchini in any variation, peeled and chopped
1-2 onions, chopped
One box of organic chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Large handful of basil, chopped
One cup of coconut milk (or organic whole milk if you prefer)

In a soup pot, start the onions on medium heat with olive oil, cook, while stirring, till somewhat translucent.  Add zucchini and cook till they are starting to get a bit soft, then add the box of stock.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the veggies are cooked all the way through.  Let cool a bit.  Add the coconut milk (or milk) and the basil and then, using an immersion blender, puree to a smooth consistency.  Can serve warm or cold.  Enjoy!

“Daily Goodness”

I have a list that I keep tucked in my little book that I am constantly referring to, called “Daily Goodness.”  It is just a reminder of a perfect day of self care.  What’s on it, you ask?  Everything from yoga and meditation to vitamins, to coconut oil pulling.  What what?

Yes, it isn’t mainstream (and by now you may have figured out neither am I!).  But the benefits of coconut oil pulling are numerous and I’ve benefited tremendously from my practice.  I’ve even grown a fondness for the flavor of coconut which I simply didn’t have before.  All good, so I want to share it with you.

I came to it when I had a raging ache in my wisdom tooth (yep, still have them all).  I had just gotten my last silver fillings replaced with the white kind and my poor tooth screamed at me for a few weeks.  When I called the dentist and asked how long something like this might last, they were horrified that I had endured it for so long and invited me back in.  Sitting in the dentist’s chair, I learned it was time for a root canal to get rid of that pain.  I even made the appointment.

In the meantime, a friend mentioned I should try coconut oil pulling.  I read about it on the internet and was pretty impressed.  If it could do half of what it claimed, I would be in excellent health in no time.  And so I dove into the coconut oil.  Just a little at first.  I could only swish/pull for five minutes at a time at the very beginning.  But for those first few days, I did it three times per day. 

Surprises, surprises.  The first one was that within a minute or so of my very first pulling, I found myself racing to the sink to spit out yellow/green mucus that was draining from my sinuses.  This was pretty shocking as I did NOT have a cold or sinus issues at the time.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Where had that come from?!

The next surprise was that by the second day all the pain had subsided, and, you guessed it, I cancelled the root canal. 

How and why does such a simple thing like this work?!  The viscosity of the oil (once it becomes a liquid in your mouth) does the job for you, along with a pushing motion.  Imagine you are trying to push and pull the oil through your teeth and especially your molars.  That is the sensation you are aiming for and it may take time to get used to it.  The oil is essentially grabbing the bacteria in your mouth–the stuff that is there that you might not even believe is there–and gets it out of your mouth.  So spitting the stuff out is very important, as is rinsing and brushing afterward. 

Recall anatomy 101, the mouth/nose/ears are all connected.  Hence my sinus drainage after my first pulling.  I still get a little drainage from time to time after a pulling.  If you suffer from any sinus issues this could really be a fantastic tool for you!  Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 15-20 minutes/day to get the full benefits.  

Here is the article I first referenced when I started, I hope you find it helpful, too.

Since I’ve begun coconut oil pulling my dental hygienist is always commenting on how white my teeth are, too.  And no, I don’t use a whitening toothpaste or agent of any kind.  Just an added happy benefit.

With so much to gain, don’t you think you should give it a try?

Jammin’

I have always marveled at the transformative properties of summer.  When the mercury soars, our edges soften and we become more open, more receptive, and generally more happy.  I think that is one of the reasons I love summer so much–it is the underlying feeling of playfulness and connection.  I just want to bottle it up.
Our family was away in Maine last week.  We go to the Belgrade Lakes region, stay in a great house right on Long Pond with a sunset view.  It is dreamy there.  It was a week filled with summer fun:  from shopping at the farmers market, water skiing and wake boarding, listening to the loons on the lake, to sitting around a table playing games at night, it was the stuff that summer dreams are made of.  And my personal highlight is a secret little dock, across the road–on the sunrise side of lake–where I have the pleasure of practicing yoga each morning (sometimes with fish watching me from the water, other mornings with woodpeckers hanging out in the trees above me, or duck families swimming by…..).

To capture a little of our trip, and a little of that summer feeling, my husband and I went to a local farm and purchased a cooler full (seriously, like a whole giant cooler!) of the freshest strawberries I’ve ever seen.  They were the kind that were bright red all the way through, like this:

single strawberry ripe

And then, to literally bottle up all that summer goodness, I made jam.  Loads of strawberry jam.  You may not be able to bottle up that summer openness and delicious feeling, but you can certainly bottle up strawberry jam!

Jammin Summer 2014

Happy summer trails!

P. S. If you are new to jam-making try the low sugar variety (Pomona’s Pectin) at Whole Foods!  Just follow one of the recipes on the insert.