Sunday, January 23, 2011

3 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Nose Snot-Free

Everyone I know is sick.  Alright not everyone, but on Facebook yesterday my News Feed informed me that four of my male friends had runny noses and fevers.  You can hear it in people's nasaly voices, see it in their red, teary eyes and hear when they hawk their disgusting loogies, which, by the way, grosses me out more than you can know. 

The sad part is not that you're miserable and ailing, but that you think this is normal.  "Yeah, I guess it's just time for my bi-monthly phlegm infection.  Is that the way you want to live?  Constantly recovering from brawls between your immune system and little, tiny bacterial or viral invaders?  And if it's not a cold, it's seasonal allergies. 

So you take your NyQuil and your DayQuil, and don't forget your daily allergy medication that may or may not render you unable to operate heavy machinery (your car).  If you don't like taking conventional medicines, you go for the more "natural" options: herbal remedies, homeopathic pellets, burning candles in your ears, or inhaling steamy tea tree oil to cleanse the sinus cavities.  But the only gooey wax you see after burning those ear candles is from the candles themselves - they do nothing but cost you money.   

I'm not saying natural remedies like your Kick Ass Immune tincture, Neti pots, and C Monster supplements aren't useful when used appropriately.  I'm just saying that it would be nice if we didn't get sick in the first place.  The reason everyone is so sick and snotty all the time is that our immune systems SUCK, and a little echinacea is not going to fix that, guys.  There's something much more potent to help you with those colds and allergies, and it's not sold in a bottle.  Since you all seem to need catchy phrases to sell you on immune boosting products and programs, I'll call it my MaxImmune NutriProgram for Optimal Wellness.  In other words, eat better.   

Here's a sequence of events that happens to the best of us:
  1. Get born.
  2. Eat shitty, refined, sugary foods (that Mom may or may not have known were shitty).
  3. Due to shitty food, you don't get enough nutrients (protein, vitamins and minerals) to create a strong immune system.
  4. Immune system gets tired and can't attack things properly (flu virus, that pesky syphilis, etc.).
  5. Immune system gets confused because it's really over-worked and under-educated.
  6. Immune system starts attacking things it shouldn't attack (weeping willow bits, foods, YOUR OWN BODY).
  7. Immune system is so tired and confused that it doesn't respond quickly or efficiently to viruses and bacteria.

And thus we end up with weak, confused immune systems that don't know what they're supposed to be doing.  We get sick a lot, we have allergies to random things, including foods, and we get autoimmune disorders (where your immune system attacks your own body) like multiple sclerosis, celiac and Hashimoto's.  Much of your immune system is made up of proteins, and it takes many different nutrients to get it to work well.  You get these proteins and nutrients in large part from FOOD.  Let me repeat that.  Your immune system, as well as every other part of your body, is produced from the food you eat. 

Here are your instructions for building a strong immune system so you don't get sick in the first place:

1. Eat regularly.  Your body needs to have a constant supply of energy so that your immune system can do everything it needs to do.  You can't create cells and tissues without good food, much less heal them.  Eat protein, fat and complex carbohydrates at every meal and snack, and don't go more than 3 or 4 hours without eating.  Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, sleep, repeat.  You may just lose some weight doing this, too.  

2.  Don't eat things your body doesn't like.  For various reasons, people's immune systems often flare up when they come into contact with certain foods.  Your body sees the food as a foreign invader and attacks it, which causes you to feel symptoms.  In the case of true food allergies, your lips may swell up and go numb, hives might appear, and your heart could potentially stop due to anaphylactic shock.  Food sensitivities are similar in that your immune system attacks a food and causes symptoms, but the mechanism is different.  To be exact, food allergies are mediated by immunoglobulin E and sensitivities are caused by other parts of your immune system.  Again, being sensitive to a food just means that your immune system has a negative reaction to it.  It could be that it makes you depressed, it makes your joints achy, or it gives you a headache.  It might give you hives or diarrhea, acne or a yeast infection.  Many symptoms are possible because your immune system has a lot of different tactics.

When you're continually eating things that are causing negative immune responses, it's really hard on your body, and it leaves a weaker immune system to fight off things like the flu.  So if you just love sunflower seeds, but you're actually sensitive to them (and have headaches all the time), your immune system is constantly working on responding to the sunflower seeds.  When you want your huge, well-fed, agile army on hand to attack the bacteria your kid just sneezed all over your face, you have half of a poorly-fed, tired-ass army instead.

If you want to know what foods you're sensitive to, you can find out.  You can either take out foods you suspect cause problems and see if you feel any better, or you can get tested through several different companies.  If you're interested in this process, contact me and set up an appointment.  A lot of people have problems with wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, sugar and/or chocolate, but you personally may have an issue with raspberries or beef or garbanzo beans.  Or all of the above.  I can tell you this:  I've never seen a food sensitivities test come back negative, and I've never seen anyone NOT improve after taking out their offending foods.              

3. Eat foods that have a fantastic array of nutrients in them.  When I say that, I know you conjure some superfood in your media-washed brains like acai berries from the Amazon or pomegranates from ancient Greece.  While those foods are great, I'm not talking about them.  All whole foods (vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, seeds) have nutrients in them, and even more so if they're organic and raised properly.  Grains and legumes have some nutrients in them, too, but we won't go there right now.

Let me remind you about why you need these nutrients.  Let's take, for example, the antibody (aka immunoglobulin).  The antibody is the part of your immune system that identifies and neutralizes foreign objects, such as bacteria and viruses.  It's crucial for responding to that nasty flu virus quickly and efficiently so that you don't have to feel awful for 3 weeks, or even 3 days.  You need protein and B vitamins to build these antibodies, both of which you get in the largest quantities from animal products.  You also need vitamin C from fruits and vegetables to keep your antibodies (particularly immunoglobulin A) from being depleted.  Here's a link to an article on that. 

If your diet is mostly made up of refined grains, pasteurized cheese and sugar, all of which have little usable goodness in them, think about adding more veggies, meats, nuts, seeds and fruits in order to get your protein and vitamins.  Think of sugar as a caloric wedge between you and your nutrients.  Sugar takes up calories in your diet that could otherwise be spent on nutrient dense foods that will help you build a strong immune system.  Plus, sugar makes you fat and tired.  It's what's giving you your muffin top.  It can also lower your libido, make you depressed and give you acne.  I guess all of those symptoms work well together because, well, who wants to have sex with you if you're fat, tired, sick, depressed and have acne?  Ha!  Just kidding.  But seriously... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

5 Foods You'll Usually Find in My Kitchen

I will admit that I was not always a role model when it came to my profession.  Far from it.  My evolution as a good eater has been slow and steady, punctuated by headlong plummets into sugar land.   On the first day of school for nutrition, I remember walking into class with some Fig Newtons I'd gotten from a gas station down the street for breakfast.  I was starving and couldn't wait to eat those suckers.  In those days, if I ate breakfast it could always have passed for dessert - doughnuts, sugary instant oatmeal with sugar on top, sugary cereals with skim milk and sugar on top... Lunch would be an entire giant burrito from Qdoba or a 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell (both vegetarian and devoid of any protein, of course).  And dinner was pasta.  Just white noodles and some sort of preservative and pesticide-laden, zero protein marinara sauce.  Dessert?  Maybe an entire pint of rainbow sherbet or a bunch of cookies.  I never went long without a Mountain Dew, Twix bar or some sort of pastry, either.  Love those pastries.  The part that I have to remember sometimes is that when I walked in with those Fig Newtons for breakfast, I didn't think I'd done anything wrong.  And if someone at that point in my life had told me not to eat that for breakfast, I would have been pissed. off.  But here I am writing every week, probably pissing at least a few people off every time, because I wish someone HAD said something to me.  Anyway, by the end of my 4 year tenure in school my diet had changed a bit.  It still changes all the time as I figure out what works for me and as I continue to learn.

In school, I had the opportunity to be a nanny for the daughter of Esther Cohen, the director of my school.  Esther was really influential in my life as a teacher, a role model, and a mentor.  The great part about being her nanny was that I knew exactly what was in her refrigerator and cupboards at her house.  I knew what she, her kids, and her dogs ate, and that in itself was a large part of my education.  She's the first person I ever knew who had raw milk in her refrigerator, and I can definitely say that that had something to do with me trying raw milk last week.  Her dogs ate raw meat every day and one of her daughter's favorite treats was a small cup of raw milk with a drop of vanilla in it.  At this point, I feel like the contents of my refrigerator and my tastes in food are as strange and outlandish as Esther's family's.  At this pivotal moment in my life, I'm going to try to impart some new information to you by describing the contents of my own refrigerator. 

Let me just start by saying that there is a quarter of a gallon of raw milk and a quart of raw yogurt rotting in there.  Since my last post, Seth realized he can't eat raw dairy, either.  If anybody wants it...

The Big 5
Other than that, here are the top 5 things you'll find in my kitchen.  Why 5?  I don't know - it seems like bloggers like to use that number on their lists of very important things...
1. Meat
Every kind, every way.  I don't just mean red meat when I say "meat", by the way.  I'm referring to all animals, including fish, that once had faces.  Pork loin chops, turkey bacon, turkey breasts, lamb steaks, cow steaks, ground buffalo, shrimp, salmon, canned sardines, chicken thighs, pork bacon, lobster tails, crabs...  And I could go on.  Some is in the fridge already cooked so we can make meals quickly, and some is in the fridge waiting to be cooked.  A lot is in the freezer because we like to buy things on sale.  Organic meat is not cheap. 

The merits of properly raised meat are countless.  Among other things, it's a source of protein, essential fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and balanced blood sugar.  Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion, you don't have to stay away from any kind of meat (i.e. "red"), unless it's factory farmed, it's against your religion, or you're sensitive to it.
2. Eggs
My boyfriend's mother is kind enough to stop by H&J Farms in East Longmont on her way to visit us weekly in Boulder.  She picks up enough eggs for our dog and us for the week (about 5 dozen).  Yes, our dog eats eggs. Raw.  Like Rocky.  H&J farms is a rather large plot of land where chickens run amok, eating bugs, grass, GMO-free chicken feed and local corn.  The eggs often contain 2 yolks, which are always golden yellow and difficult to break - not to mention delicious.  These are healthy eggs.  I eat them scrambled, hard-boiled and sometimes raw in my coconut milk ice cream.  And yes, I eat every yolk.

Eggs that come from pasture raised chickens are a really good source of protein, essential fatty acids, choline for your brain and liver, and lutein for your eyes.  They're also a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B6, Folate (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Zinc, Tryptophan, Iodine and Selenium.  Here's some news for you, the cholesterol in egg yolks doesn't cause heart disease - refined carbohydrates do (to make a vast blanket statement...).  The yolks are where you'll find the bulk of all of those nutrients listed above.  All of the protein in an egg doesn't even live in the white, FYI, for all of you who throw away the yolk because you just want the protein.  Here's an awesome video sequence from Chris Kresser at about how eating cholesterol and saturated fat actually reduces the risk of heart disease.  He provides some fantastic research to back up his claims.

I Have High Cholesterol, and I Don't Care (Part I) from The Healthy Skeptic on Vimeo.

I Have High Cholesterol, and I Don't Care (Part II) from The Healthy Skeptic on Vimeo.

3. Brassica Family Veggies (Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, etc.)
I just noticed that most of the vegetables in my refrigerator are in the Brassica family, which includes  kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabaga, and turnips.  Broccoli is on that list, too, but it's not in my fridge because of the, er, digestive issues it gives me.  These plants are very nutrient dense, especially kale.  They contain a lot of vitamin C, carotenoids (read: vitamin A), and many anti-cancer nutrients like indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane.  They're also full of fiber.  If you're going to eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, eat kale.  Chop it up, put some olive oil, salt and vinegar on it, massage it down,  and you have yourself some nutrients.  Yes, massage it.  Watch this video on how to make kale taste good.  I put these veggies in stir fries, egg scrambles and salads.
4. Jicama
To my surprise, I just found out that jicama is a legume (gasp!).  I don't eat legumes because of their phytate and lectin content.  Luckily, the phytates are generally in the germ of a plant, which is not the root, which is what a jicama is.  I can not even find jicama listed on any chart of phytate-containing foods, so I will keep it in my fridge for now.  If you've never tasted jicama before, you should try eating it raw, in a salad or lightly cooked in a stir fry.  Its flavor is perfectly described as a cross between a water chestnut and a pear.  Nutritionally, it contains a little vitamin C, but its best quality is its fiber content.  This food is especially high in the fiber known as inulin, which is a pre-biotic.  That means it helps to feed the good probiotics in your gut.  I eat it raw or with my eggs or meat lightly sautéed in some coconut oil.      

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

5. Sweet potatoes
I have a sweet tooth, and that's why sweet potatoes are almost always in my house.  If you bake sweet potatoes for long enough, they caramelize and become a nutrient-rich sweet treat.  I have been a huge fan of garnet yams, but recently I discovered Japanese sweet potatoes (see picture above), and I love them.  They have a smoother texture than garnets and a subtly different flavor that is still very sweet.  They have more purply skin and whiter flesh.  You'll have to try them out.  I usually bake them up wrapped in tin foil a few at a time at 400 degrees for about an hour.  (You can cut them up and put them in tin foil to make the bake time faster.)  Then I put them in the fridge and eat away at them throughout the next few days to a week.  I love them with coconut milk and cinnamon.  I've actually made ice cream out of coconut milk, sweet potatoes, cinnamon and honey before.  Yum.

Japanese sweet potatoes (and sweet potatoes, in general) are rich in beta carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in your body.  They're also full of vitamins E and C and B6.  There are tons of other minerals in them, too - check it out at here.  They provide a good amount of fiber, too - about 6.6g per cup, even after they're baked.  

Don't get me wrong - I don't ONLY eat these 5 things, but they are staples for me.  Other foods you'll find in my kitchen are bananas, kiwis, pears, canned coconut milk, coconut oil, Daiya cheese (which, if you're dairy free and you need a good alternative, you should check out), and tapioca flour (tapioca is a tuber - not a grain FYI).

What About Your Kitchen? 
I encourage you to take stock of your own kitchen.  Are you happy with what is filling up your fridge and cupboards (or NOT filling them up...)?  Could you make any changes in order to include more whole, unadulterated foods?  Could you make your kitchen more accessible and convenient so that you'd WANT to do more food prep/cooking?  Part of my job is to go to people's houses and dissect their kitchens.  If that's something you're interested in having me do for you, please contact me.  If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to use the comment box.  I'd love to know about your kitchens, too! 

Until next time.            

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Little Raw Dairy Experiment
My last post made an impression on my boyfriend, Seth.  He was reminded that raw dairy might be an option for us, and decided he wanted to start drinking milk again, damn it.  I haven't had milk/cheese/butter/yogurt in about 2 years, and he stopped consuming it about a year ago.  Both of us had heinous reactions to pasteurized and homogenized dairy digestively and otherwise, so we fired it from our diets.  We LOVE dairy, though.  Who doesn't?  So since raw dairy (not pasteurized or homogenized) is generally tolerated much better by people, we decided we'd give it a try.        

We called up a raw dairy farm in Erie, CO called Lafferty Farm and they invited us over to check the place out and sign up for a share.  A share?  Well, it's illegal in every state but California to sell raw dairy in grocery stores, so in order to get around that, you have to own a share of the cows you're getting your dairy from.

The Cost
You pay some money to buy into the board and feed for the cows (in this case $30 total) and sign a contract saying that you're part owner of the cows, and then Lafferty Farm (and many other raw dairies) can sell you their milk.  A full share, meaning one gallon of milk per week, is $30/mo.  A half share, which would be enough for my boyfriend, roommate and me, is $15/mo.  Prices around this area vary.  Here's where you can find out where to buy your own.

The Cows
I don't know what this says about me, but apparently cows are really attracted to Seth.  When Keith Lafferty of Lafferty Farm led us out into the pasture where his cows spend their days, he was surprised by the way we were bombarded by them.  Well, Seth was bombarded by them.  We pet them and Nora and Gretchen (yes, these cows have names) nudged us for more pets.  Nora licked my hand with her gigantic cat-like tongue and we were sold.  There were about 6 cows, all of whom looked happy and healthy.  Right now they eat mostly grass and alfalfa hay from a neighboring farm and a mineral pellet and protein pellet in the winter (which is unfortunately made partly of soy).  In the summer they graze on grass on the Lafferty property.  They have babies and take turns resting their udders for a couple of months out of the year.  They are loved.  These cows have been bred to produce a surplus of milk, so even when they are providing milk for their babies, they produce 2-4 gallons of extra milk per day just for you and me. 

The Big Controversy (It's Actually Not That Big...)
But as my dad just said, "Neely, you're supposed to be Paleo girl.  Why would you drink milk?"  While I can come off as a highly opinionated, dogmatic bitch, I can actually be sort of flexible sometimes.  A strict Paleo diet doesn't include milk because during the Paleolithic era there weren't domesticated animals to milk.  However, in Weston A. Price's travels around the world, he found a number of tribal groups for whom raw milk products were staple foods.  And by his measures those tribes were incredibly healthy.  Here's his book if you'd like to read it.  There's a lot of research about milk that pretty much proves it's not fit to consume.  It's associated with skin problems and digestive issues, sinus infections and autism, and worse.  But that research is done on pasteurized and homogenized milk products.  Those milk products and raw milk products may as well have come from two different animals - one is a dead food and one is alive and full of nutrients.  Unless you have a casein (one of milk's proteins) allergy, you should be able to imbibe raw milk.  Here's some more info on raw milk

I've been literally afraid of milk products for the past 2 years because of the havoc they wreaked on my body for so long.  Once I figured out that it was milk products that were causing my problems, I took them out and my symptoms went away.  I don't touch the stuff.  Trying out dairy this week was an evolution not only in my strict thinking about Paleo eating, but an emotional milestone as well.  I'm kind of proud of myself for overcoming that fear.  I was ready for my symptoms to return, but they didn't.  I got to savor that mildly sweet milky flavor that I'd forgotten, and make my first batch of yogurt ever, the flavor and texture of which almost brought me to tears.  Paleolithic people could only have dreamt of such divinity.

My old symptom didn't come back, but others did.  Wheezy breathing, eczema and stomach cramps ensued, despite my positive thinking.  It turns out I can't consume raw milk products.

But you might be able to, and I won't judge you too harshly if you decide to get some raw dairy.  Just don't go do something silly like eat it with Cocoa Puffs cereal...

Does anyone have any experiences to share about switching to raw milk?