Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Diet and Life.

I got the results of my follow-up test: my TSH is 2 something.  Right in the middle of normal range.
I honestly can't say if I did that with the diet restrictions I imposed upon myself or if I just had postpartum thyroiditis and it was going to resolve on its own.  Either way, I feel better now that I've been avoiding gluten and sugar.  I solved problems I didn't realize were there like the fogginess that sometimes smogged up my thought.  I'm much better at interacting with people now because there's less lag between what they say to me and my response.

You can tell when I'm hungry because my conversation skills decrease pretty steadily in relation to exactly how hungry I am.  The hungrier I get the younger my brain gets, although even that is getting better without the gluten.

I've been doing a lot of research about this stuff lately because I'm the kind of stubborn ass that spends a lot of time trying to do things the way I want.  It's really interesting stuff, and I encourage everyone to look into it, regardless of skepticism.

I sort of joke that this is karma for me: I used to make fun of a youth leader of my old church for ordering burgers without a bun and I would frequently make it known that I thought celiac disease was a sham.  I still don't believe that all the people out there claiming to have it actually suffer from the disease, but it is real.  Gluten intolerance is also very real.

I will continue to be gluten free with an emphasis on wheat.  I'll eat spelt or kamut occasionally but wheat is totally out of picture - every time I eat wheat I pay for it, and the rides are not worth the price of admission.

The only things I can concretely tell you about thyroid health and diet from my own experience is that a glass of lemon water a day really helps and coconut oil is like the thyroid God.  If you do nothing else, take at least a tablespoon a day and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sugarless Chocolate Milk?

Sorry I sort of fell off of the blogosphere (can I say that?  I think my blog might be too small...), we had two conventions in a row.  Granted I only attended one, but I did show my art in the other.  Maybe I'll write about them later, but I have a specific topic I've been itching to type out on my mind.

Today I want to write about thyroid health.  Specifically hypothyroidism - what I have - but I think that most of what I have to say could be applied to hyperthyroidism as well.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I am only sharing my experience.

In the beginning of August I went for a physical, just to make sure everything was in working order.  I guess they do blood work now as a matter of course; maybe they've been doing blood work as a matter of course for a long time, but I'm not one to go to the doctor unless something is wrong and I can't seem to fix it so I'm a bit out of the loop.  At any rate my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) came back at 10.45 or something, over 10 is the main point.  That's pretty high.  In fact, the doctor at the practice I visit has set 10 as the medicating cut off meaning that anything 10 or over gets a prescription.
I found this out when I received my labs in the mail a few days after I had my blood drawn.  At the top of the results was a curt note to me saying, "Jennifer, you are hypothyroid and need to take supplements.  One a day. Dr. _____"
Of course I rebelled, after having a good cry over it and calling hubby.

When I find out there's something wrong with me I generally take to the interwebs.  What I found was a general consensus that TSH alone isn't an accurate test if you're looking to find the root cause.  It works perfectly if you're looking for an allopathic solution (is that an oxymoron?) but I am not, so I decided to try and treat with diet.  A month later my TSH was down to about 6 and I was told to come back in two months to test again to make sure I was actually helping it and the decrease wasn't some sort of fluke.

You should know that a couple of things influenced my decision to attempt treating with diet.  First, I recently had a baby and there is a thing called postpartum thyroiditis.  Mostly it manifests as hyperthyroidism first followed by a month or two of hypothyroidism.  The majority of women are euthyroid within three months of being hypothyroid, some women need lifelong medication.  Second, I can be a stubborn little shit and I am pretty well like an ox about not putting chemicals into my body anymore.  It gets ridiculous sometimes, but that's another story.

So what am I doing?
I am essentially being paleo.  I am avoiding gluten, soy and white sugar like the plague and there is a list of veggies and fruits that are goitrogenic (meaning they promote thyroid inflammation/suppress normal thyroid function).  The list is as follows:
  • cruciferous veggies which include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussles sprouts, etc.
  • peaches
  • pears
  • strawberries
  • peanuts
I'm sure there are more, but those are the specific ones I'm avoiding.
I'm also steering clear of caffeine and alcohol.

I drink a glass of lemon water every day.  I'm not sure of the science behind this, but it seems to help.
I eat a spoonful of organic coconut oil (extra virgin) every couple of hours.  I think I'm taking close to 1/4 cup a day because I also put it into my hot drinks and cook with it.  I can't tell you how much this is helping.  If I start to feel icky, I'll take a spoonful and 20 minutes or so later I'm feeling normal again.
I eat a lot of yoghurt (Icelandic cream-Skyr which I make myself because otherwise I would break bank eating as much as I do) and cottage cheese with berries and ground flax seed.
I'm taking a women's multi (one-a-day) and an occasional cod liver oil depending on how much fish I consume that week.  I was taking a thyroid strength, but my body decided against that after a week or two.  I'm going to try an adrenal support supplement and see how that goes, I'll let you know.

To sum it up, these are the most important things I've found to do:
  1. Do not eat gluten.  I felt it needed to be bold because holy crap gluten is so mean to your thyroid.
  2. No refined sugar.  Again, sugar is evil.  I sneak in some maple syrup once in a while (the real stuff) and I seem to do fine, but granulated sugar is a no-no.
  3. Try to avoid fluoridated water.  Seriously.
  4. Try to avoid goitrogens when possible.  I read that the food loses some of it's goitrogenic properties on being cooked, but I've still been moderating my consumption.
  5. Eat lots of good fats, like coconut oil.  Lots of coconut oil.  I mean it.
  6. Probiotics are your friend (p.s. Goodbelly, you suck for adding gluten to your drinks)
  7. Try supplements or, barring vitamins, add salt to your food.  Just in case of iodine deficiency.
  8. Omega-3 is awesome, eat it somehow (flax, eggs, fish, supplements)
  9. Brown rice wins over white rice.  Always

Things I've learned while being stubborn about dietary restrictions:
  1. Food tastes awesome without sugar.  I've made a totally paleo cobbler a couple times now and it's amazing.
  2. Coconut butter is a thing and you should try it.
  3. I feel the difference when I eat gluten.  Not just wheat, I can't eat oatmeal unless it's specifically gluten free now...
A lot of people would say that my diet is crazy, that I'm depriving myself somehow.  I don't feel deprived.  I love dessert and I still eat it regularly, just sans sugar and most grains which does not make it any less tasty or satisfying.  In fact, dessert without processed sugars is more satisfying.  I'll share some recipes in a few days.

I'm going to leave off with a recipe I just discovered for sugarless chocolate milk.  I drink this before bed sometimes and it's amazing!

6 oz whole milk (I use organic, non-homogenized)
1 spoon coconut oil
2 spoons cocoa powder

pour ingredients into a blender and blend for 15-30 seconds.  Pour and enjoy.
This creates an interesting froth on top which is also delicious.  This is for a pretty dark chocolate milk, the measurements aren't exact, just make it how you like!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Breast is Better than Doing Science to it...

So...this happened, and at least one person came to the wrong conclusion from the information given.

The above two links are for information on the correlation of toxins in breastmilk and autism rates and a blog post citing said information as a good reason to not breastfeed your children (that is not the entire point of the post, but it is mentioned).

I understand how the conclusion is reached.  The problem is that by the same logic we should also reach the conclusion that babies should be grown in test tubes rather than in their mother's womb.  How do I make the connection?  What's in your breastmilk is also in your blood, so saying that a woman shouldn't breastfeed her baby because of chemicals is also saying that a woman shouldn't grow her baby because of chemicals.

The proper conclusion to come to from the above information (in my humble opinion) is that we need to stop using so many damned chemicals.  Haven't we proved the saying 'better living through science' wrong yet?
Sure, science does wonderful things, but science is not so wonderful that we can just replace everything natural with it.  I get trial and error, and on more than one occasion I've said - quite enthusiastically - "LET'S DO SCIENCE TO IT!" but isn't it time we dropped all the chemical nonsense.

The problem is how entrenched we are in big-ag *coughmonsantocough* and subsidising shoot-yourself-in-the-foot farming methods.  And for everyone out there who says farming organically is unsustainable in practice, I read a fantastic point about that on a paleo blog saying that our current reliability on oil-based products is not sustainable either.

Do I have the answers?  No, and I don't pretend to know them either.  What I can do is turn my front yard into a garden rather than an ornament.  I can choose to clean my home with things like white vinegar, enzyme cleaner and vodka.  I can make my own chemical free laundry soap and dish detergent, and my own chemical free shampoo.  I can live as cleanly as I have the means to live (which turns out to be more about my personal energy levels than financial means, because clean living is actually cheaper).

I can't ask anyone else to do it, but I can try to lead by example.  Not everyone is a fan of the way I like to live or the way I'd like to live in the future.  A lot of people (and I mean a lot) think I'm pretty well off my rocker for doing things like avoiding soy (and now gluten thanks to some post-partum thyroid shenanigans).  But that's okay.  I'm happy this way, and I think a good number of people could be happy this way as well.

If only we could stop falling into the trap that is Man vs. God.  We're not God, we're meant to be keepers of the life around us.  We should start actually keeping it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DIY - Why it's Weird...and Awesome.

A funny thing happened to me while shopping last week:
I was looking for vanilla beans so I asked the woman stocking the bulk section because I figured that's where they would be.  She lead me over to the honey station and picked up a stick in a plastic tube.  I asked if they had anything different, like actual beans (because I didn't know the beans were inside of the stick, I thought it was like a cinnamon stick) and she took me over to the section that had actual extract in it where there were two more employees doing odd stocking jobs.  One of them explained to me that the beans were actually inside of the stick and the other helped us look for another vanilla bean option - we found one, but it was a lot more expensive.  The one helping us look asked me why I was looking for vanilla beans and I said, "to make my own vanilla extract."
When we had finished and I was walking away with my plastic tube of vanilla beans he turned to the woman and said, "don't we sell vanilla extract?"
I was too busy laughing to myself to hear what she said in response.

We live in a society that embraces consumerism.  Why make it, when you can buy it?  I mean, buying it is just so much easier.
A lot of people tell themselves they don't have time for making things, which is a cute excuse for laziness in my experience.  I was one of those people and as it happens I have plenty of time to make my own stuff.  The trick is prioritizing.  Sure, I'd rather be sitting on my bum playing World of Warcraft a lot of the time, but there are just more important things to be doing.  Like making nut milk.

The most recent thing I learned I could make myself is farina hot cereals, specifically rice farina.  Why should I do this?  Because a 26 ounce bag of organic rice farina costs upwards of $6.99 (Bob's Red Mill).  A pound of organic short grain brown rice costs around $1.29 at Sprouts.  That means my breakfast costs me $1.08, give or take, when buying it pre-made.  It costs me $.32 to $.64 if I make it myself.  That's a savings of $.44 to $.75 a meal.  I haven't actually done it, so I'm not sure what 8 ounces of rice would come to once ground; probably a bit less than 8 ounces, maybe even half.  I eat this almost daily for breakfast, so the savings add up pretty quickly.

Nut milk (specifically almond) comes out $.64 cheaper than the cheapest brand of almond milk, and that's if you're buying almonds at $5.99 a pound - which is the regular price for almonds.  The best thing about this one is that you have a bit more control over what goes into the milk.  This cost comparison isn't for organic though.

Home-made shampoo is my new favorite thing.  It's just rosemary infused water, castile soap, jojoba oil and lavender essential oil.   I have a rosemary plant, so it actually saves me a marginal amount of money, but if my calculations including rosemary are correct, it costs about the same unless you're buying conditioner in which case it makes it that much cheaper.  I do it more for the ingredient control than anything else, really.  Plus my hair looks nicer now, in my opinion.

I also make my own dishwasher detergent, which saves me a bit of money.  I'm still working out the most effective recipe, so I'm not sure what the savings are quite yet.

My next pet project is laundry soap.  I found a recipe here that I'm going to try.

What do you guys make?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Guide to Soaking Nuts.

I started with soaking almonds.  I looked up how to soak them in my Nourishing Traditions book and followed the recipe.  Then I got pecans, and it's a good thing I checked the book first, because I totally assumed that soaking almonds and pecans would work the exact same way.  But it doesn't, oddly enough.

So here is a guide to soaking different nuts!
It should be noted that all of these are for soaking raw nuts.

4 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons sea salt
filtered water

Combine, cover, and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight.
Dry in a warm oven for 12-24 hours.

4 cups walnut halves/pieces
2 teaspoons sea salt
filtered water

Combine, cover, and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight.
Dry in a warm oven for 12-24 hours.
Store in your refrigerator.

Peanuts/Pine Nuts/Hazelnuts
4 cups peanuts, pine nuts, or skinless hazelnuts
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

To peel hazelnuts, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees until skins turn dark and begin to crack.  Place in a kitchen towel, wrap tightly andrub and squeeze the bundle in your hands.
Combine, cover, and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight.
Dry in a warm oven for 12-24 hours.

4 cups almonds, preferably skinless
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

Combine, cover, and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight.
Dry in a warm oven for 12-24 hours.

4 cups cashews
1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

Combine, cover, and leave in a warm place for no longer than 6 hours.
Dry in a 200-250 degree oven for 12-24 hours.

Cashews have such a short soaking time because they contain a toxic oil called cardol between the inner and outer shell.  Before the nuts hit the shelves of your market they are cracked and roasted at 350 degrees twice.  After they have been roasted twice they are marketed as "raw."  Because they are not truly raw, soaking them longer than 6 hours produces a slimy nut with a rather disagreeable taste according to Nourishing Traditions.

Macadamia Nuts
4 cups macadamia nuts

1 tablespoon sea salt
filtered water

Combine, cover, and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight.
Dry in a warm oven for 12-24 hours.


The reason walnuts are the only nuts that need to be stored in the refrigerator is because almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts, and peanuts have a high content of stable oleic acid.  This means that they do not go rancid easily, and once prepared (soaking/dehydrating) they can be stored for a number of months at room temperature in an airtight container.  Walnuts, unlike the other nuts, contain large amounts of triple unsaturated linolenic acid and will go rancid much easier.

So there you have it.  That is a list of all of the nuts included in the Nourishing Traditions book.

Happy soaking!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When to Keep Your Mouth Shut...

even the cart tells you not to do it!
Every time I go shopping I have a small dialogue in my head, and it gets louder each time it happens.  Well, maybe not every time, but damn near every time.

I see parents pushing along their shopping carts with their baby buckets perched on top of the child seat part.  The baby buckets are always full of baby.

I did this...a lot.  Even when Oliver's carrier didn't quite fit snugly on top of the cart, I'd perch him up there and tell myself silly things like, "I'm right here holding the carrier, nothing can go wrong."

Then I read a story about a mom's friend pushing the shopping cart with a baby bucket on top over a speed bump in the parking lot.  The cart tipped over and off came the car seat: the 3 month old baby died later.

First, if I was the friend pushing the cart I think I might be traumatized for life.
Second, this story scared the crap out of me: how many times had I done that very thing and put my baby boy at risk?

I didn't learn about the dangers of putting baby buckets on top of shopping carts until Oliver was sitting in the cart with a blanket behind him (for padding).  I wish someone had told me sooner.

So therein lies the debate: should I say anything to this complete stranger?

On the one hand, I usually have a baby in my own cart, which might make it less awkward if I were to explain why I'm sticking my nose in their business.  And I know I would have appreciated someone telling me in a non-aggressive way that what I was doing was dangerous.

On the other hand, I'm super awkward to begin with, and I know that a lot of people wouldn't take kindly to some random person coming up to them and telling them about how they're doing something wrong.

I just can't decide what to do here.  Part of that is because I believe community has kind of died - I take neighbours knowing nothing about each other as evidence of this - and the other part is because I'm just plain scared of a negative reaction. 

I know the right choice is to speak up, but no one ever said the right thing was the easy thing.

What would you do?