On Health

This post is kind of emotionally heavy, and truthfully, it’s basically a novel. I commend you if you manage to read through the whole thing. Honestly, it’s something I’ve never written too much about, other than a vague mention here or there. The most I’ve ever said about it was in this post, related to why we started using more “green” products around the house.

I mentioned in my post earlier this week that my endocrinologist thinks I may have a thyroid autoimmune disease. This basically means I have antibodies against my thyroid. Currently, my thyroid appears to be compensating, so I don’t need to take any medicine, but that could change. I read a really interesting article on The New Yorker about autoimmune diseases, and there were so many sentences in that article I could have written.

Particularly this: One of the hardest things about being chronically ill is that most people find what you’re going through incomprehensible—if they believe you are going through it. In your loneliness, your preoccupation with an enduring new reality, you want to be understood in a way that you can’t be.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 15. It’s very rare to get that diagnosis at such a young age. I started getting sick frequently during my senior year of high school, and it only got worse as I started college. College was really hard for me. I felt very isolated. No one really understood me or what I was going through. I was “the sick girl” and no one wanted to be friends with her. It was exhausting for me, and I’m sure it was exhausting to be around me, frankly.

I would sleep for 16 hours a day because no matter what I was constantly fatigued. I gained 20 pounds in less than 3 months. No one could explain how or why–maybe the constant steroids I had to take to control my unidentified illnesses–chronic sinus infections, joint pain, brain fog, high fevers, unexplained swollen lymph nodes all over my body, constant fatigue, and general malaise all the time. I was sick of feeling fat, so I stopped eating anything processed and followed a strict diet. I lost all the weight and was finally feeling somewhat better. But, I continued to get sick. I would have a week where I felt sort of OK after taking steroids for a few weeks, and then I’d be back at the doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with me. There was usually no diagnosis other than some sort of infection no one could find the source of.

During my second year of college, I nearly went into anaphylactic shock from eating whole wheat crackers in the library one day while I was studying. I was promptly tested for food allergies, and we found out I was allergic to wheat, soy, melon, stone fruits, and an assortment of other foods. I also started getting allergy shots to deal with my environmental allergies–three shots twice a week.

After I started eating gluten free, I stopped having chronic sinus infections. That took care of some of the discomfort and general ill feelings, but it didn’t resolve them all. My weight plummeted, and I lost 10 pounds in less than 2 months. My doctor ran test after test, and he couldn’t find anything. One day, he told me to stop exercising and eat cookies because he was at a loss for what other advice to give me. Eventually me weight issue resolved itself, but without explanation.

The author of the article talked about losing her sense of self: It wasn’t just that I suffered brain fog (a usual autoimmune symptom); and it wasn’t just the “loss of self” that sociologists talk about in connection with chronic illness, where everything you know about yourself disappears, and you have to build a different life. It was that I no longer had the sense that I was a distinct person.

I don’t know how to explain how I felt in college. I already said isolated because truly no one understood what I was going through, but I sort of lost my will to live. I cared enough to continue to do well enough in my classes to not destroy any hopes of a future, but I wasn’t really sure a future was worth it. I felt like I was dying, and I didn’t really care. I was never suicidal though. I became very apathetic. My doctor put me on antidepressants to help me cope with all the medical issues I was going through, which made me numb to everything. There are about 6 months of college that I don’t remember. I mean, sure I could vaguely tell you some things, but there are entire months sort of just missing. I forgot I went on a trip to Texas during that time. Do you forget flying 3 states away? I was just going through the motions. The trip to Germany my family took during that time? A giant fog. I remember bits and pieces. It’s truly disappointing. I have more vivid memories of the times that came after I stopped the drugs.

I then had a CT with contrast dye to determine the cause of my night sweats, rapid weight lost and swollen glands. The lymph nodes in my neck were so swollen, you could easily see them when looking at me straight on. They were about the size of grapes. My doctor was concerned I had lymphoma based on my symptoms, but the CT only found a thyroid cyst.

I was referred to an infectious disease specialist, who thought I had HIV (despite having ZERO risk factors). To quote him, “I think you just have HIV.” Because that’s something you’d say “just have” about. No. Needless to say, I never went back to him after that appointment, but nothing was found in all of his tests. He ran an ANA test to see if I had any autoimmune diseases, but nothing showed up.

I was then referred to Mayo Clinic in Florida as a last resort. At Mayo clinic, they ran an assortment of tests, including a repeat of the ANA. Again, no autoimmune disorders found. They did, however, decide that the inhaled cortisone steroid inhaler I was using was triple the dose appropriate for someone my size. I had to wean myself from the inhaler over the course of the next three months. The doctor there also decided based on my lung capacity that he didn’t think I even had asthma. Once I stopped the inhaler, I was able to breath fine during exercise and didn’t need any inhaler. I also had a thyroid biopsy done on the cyst, which fortunately revealed it was benign.

Slowly as time passed after college I stopped getting sick as frequently. I was able to function like a normal person–though I still didn’t have answers. Last year, when I was pregnant, a routine thyroid panel revealed that I was now hyperthyroid instead of hypothyroid. I stopped my medication I’d been on since I was 15–as I wasn’t gaining any weight during my pregnancy–and that seemed to do the trick. My levels evened out, I started to gain weight and I felt fine. I had my routine thyroid screen this January after meeting with an endocrinologist here. Based on my history, he wanted to run an additional test for thyroid antibodies. So, now I may have more answers to some of the “why” in terms of all my unexplained illnesses.

Sometimes, I’m convinced that my mostly organic food, limited processed food and all “green” cleaners play a huge part in feeling better. The environment I live in is “cleaner” and there’s less to impede my immune system from doing its job. Truthfully, knowing that exercise and a healthy diet were in some way related to me not feeling like I was dying motivates me to continue to take care of myself. I still have days where I feel about 60%. My joints hurt, I’m exhausted and I just feel “off.” But, I feel like I conquered the worst of it. Maybe it’s just a changed perception of reality and accepting that I’ll never be 100% again, but sometimes I think I’m “better.” Since I never had the thyroid antibody test done before this year, there’s no data to compare it to. Perhaps this has always been what was making me sick, but no one identified it.

Needless to say, I’ve been to a few doctors appointments. It was hard to read the article, because in so many ways, I felt as though I’d written parts of it. While I wasn’t dealing with a terminal illness, the chronic illness was hard for me. Without answers, I felt truly hopeless. It’s always hard for me when people talk fondly of college because I spent college in survival mode. When I finished college at 20, I’d been through so much. I didn’t have many positive associations with college, and I was really just ready to close that chapter of my life. I keep in touch with one friend from college. The “friends” that I had abandoned me one-by-one as I got sicker and sicker. It was hard to feel alone and misunderstood. Truthfully, I know it was hard to be friends with me because I was constantly so sick and run down, and it made college harder for me. It’s something I look back on with disappointment. But, I’m so thankful with where life has taken me.

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Weekend Drinking

This is actually only the second Valentine’s Day Sully and I have been able to spend together. He’s been out to sea for all of them except 2012. I’ve never been particularly concerned with Valentine’s Day. It just seems like a silly excuse for consumerism and over-indulgence.

Anyway, we’ve had some stuff going on in our lives–my fun medical stuff, which now might include an autoimmune disorder that my thyroid is compensating for, so let’s just hope it keeps doing that, (winner over here) and Sully traveling pretty much every week. I thought it would be nice to have a date night. We still haven’t found a babysitter–it’s hard to leave your kid with a stranger. So, date night at home it was!

We’re members at two wineries in Napa Valley, and we are terrible at drinking the wine they ship us. We keep saying, “well, maybe we should save that one,” which leads to you having 3 bottles of champagne that are 9-10 years old and a bunch of wines that are “too nice” to drink for no apparent reason. The wine fridge is overflowing at this point, and I just got kind of sick of not opening the “good bottles.” If we keep saving it for “later,” when does later come? Plus, there’s no promise of tomorrow. And they keep shipping booze, so we have to drink them sometime.

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Friday night, we opened our 2006 J. Schram by Schramsberg. Schramsberg holds a special spot in our hearts. It’s the very first wine tour we did when we visited Napa Valley for our wedding, and we loved it so much we switched our wedding champagne to their 2007 Blanc de Noir. We joined their wine club as our anniversary gift to each other this year, and it’s been a great choice! I made chocolate covered strawberries, and we had smoked salmon, salami, cheese, crackers and a gluten free baguette with oil and vinegar. We, of course, had our date outside on the patio since it was in the 70s still at 5pm, and Molly sat in her exersaucer next to the table.

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Saturday, we planned a little day date to Napa (with Molly). It was a glorious 75 degrees out. We went to Grgich Hills Estate for a wine and chocolate tasting they had set up for the weekend. It was fun to try some of the wines paired with chocolates we would never think to serve together. We’re also members there, and their wines never disappoint. They’re affordable, organic and the winery has a great atmosphere.

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After Grgich, we headed to Alpha Omega, where they apparently comp tasting for military members. Alpha Omega has really great red wines, though slightly pricier at $80+ per bottle. We enjoyed tasting on the patio by the fountain.  Molly enjoyed the fountain while attempting to steal our wine glasses. Also, baby sunglasses? THE BEST. We rounded out the day at Black Stallion, which has free tastings for military as well, so basically we tasted $185 of wine for free on Saturday. And that my friends is how you afford Napa ha. Truly, it was unintentional. We wanted to try the wineries, and we always check if they offer a military discount as we’re paying, just in case. It’s definitely not a determining factor in picking where we’ll taste.

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Side note: We got a few dirty glares from people about Molly, and we got a lot of “how cute” accompanied by smiles. All the wineries we went to are “family friendly” (and Alpha Omega is actually dog friendly!! Walter is coming next time). But, I know some people think you can’t/shouldn’t take your kid to a winery. Our theory is A) She’s well behaved and quiet. B) If she’s not, we leave immediately as to not disrupt the experience for others. (This is key) C) We make sure we’re going to places that are family friendly. D) We think taking her to wineries now will help her understand what is and isn’t appropriate behavior/volume level in public places and will help her develop into a polite, well behaved kid. I know not everyone will agree with that, but I don’t agree with not living because you have a kid. And, we’re not dumb enough to take her to the movies or somewhere else equally inappropriate.

Immaculate Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Maybe this is just me, but when it comes to trying new gluten free baking mixes, I’m skeptical, hesitant and nervous. Perhaps it’s that they typically cost $5 for a box, and I haven’t always had the best luck. I tend to stick to mixes I know turn out well to spare myself from disappointment.

1-2-3 Gluten Free is still my absolute favorite brand for yellow cake mix and pound cake mix. Bob’s Red Mill seems to make the best gluten free pizza crust mix. Cup-4-Cup seems to be the best substitute in non-gluten free recipes. Cookies? Still undecided. I’ve had some good cookie mixes here and there, but I’ve never been so persuaded to label something as “the best” in my book. I like to keep my cookie options open. Plus, cookies aren’t really my thing. I’d pick cake over a cookie any day. And brownies over a cookie any day.

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To get to the point here, when I saw the Immaculate brand double chocolate chip cookie mix, I was interested. They sounded sort of like brownies, and Immaculate’s refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough is pretty fabulous. So, I bought them and figured worst case scenario I’d waste some money.

They ended up being delicious! I thought I’d share so anybody else who is gluten free knows these don’t taste like cardboard. They remind me of brownies, soft on the inside with a little bit of crunch on the edges. It’s like the best of both worlds in terms of brownies. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m conflicted when it comes to brownies. I mean, the center ones? So soft and gooey. But, I just don’t know that you can beat the crunch of the corner pieces.

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The mix is sold at Target. I found it at our commissary as well. But let’s all just remember that a cookie is still a cookie. Despite it being gluten free, it’s not healthy.

Any gluten free baking mixes I should know about?

PS Immaculate has no idea who I am. I just like cookies and thought I’d share a successful cookie mix!

Favorite Baby Feeding Supplies

I always planned to make baby food once we had a kid. I just like knowing what goes into the food our baby eats, and I knew we’d save a lot of money if I made food because we want to feed her organic as often as we can. So, I thought I’d share some of our favorite items for feeding Molly.

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Beaba 1st State Spoons: ($20) We started with these spoons because they are soft, flexible silicone. We thought they’d be less intrusive than hard plastic while we were trying to get her used to the idea of eating food. She did really well with these until we transitioned her to a harder plastic spoon. I honestly think she took to eating so easily because these spoons.

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Beaba 2nd Stage Spoons: ($7) We partly went for these because the idea of metal on teeth (she’s got 2 little guys on the bottom) sort of made me cringe really hard. I figured a little longer with plastic was a good idea for her to get used to/biting plastic hurts less than metal. She does great with these spoons. They’re a little deeper than the 1st stage spoons, so it helps feed her faster (because some days she wants the food right now, mom, right now!) She can hold these better because of the short, fat handle too.

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Beaba Freezer Trays: ($20) We have two of these for freezing the foods I make. I usually fill them about half way when I make food because I know that’s closer to the portion she’ll eat than a full one. Each pod is 2 oz.

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Vitamix 750: ($649) Sully got me this for our anniversary/my birthday 2 years ago when he was out to sea for both. To quote him “And you can make baby food.” So he bought it knowing I’d use it for a lot of things. Honestly, this this is magic. First, it has a clean setting. It cleans itself. Magic. But, essentially, you just put the cooked fruits or veggies with a tiny bit of water in and turn it up to 10 for a few seconds and you’re golden. But, really you just need something that will finely blend food. You want your baby food to be very smooth until they can swallow bigger pieces.

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Multipot with Steamer Basket: ($100) Basically you just need a steamer basket, not specifically this pot. I really do love this line of pots and pans though. Ours have held up really nicely. To maintain the nutritional qualities of foods you’re making, you really want to steam or bake anything you can without anything added. If you cook something in water, you should use the water used to cook it in the food, as nutrients will have leached out into the water.

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Happy Bellies Organic Oat Cereal: ($3.50 at Target) We chose to start with oat after hearing about arsenic in rice cereal. While the AAP basically says rice cereal is still fine, I felt more comfortable doing oat cereal. You just want to start with single grain cereal and mix it with breastmilk or formula. And, the reason you start with cereal is because exclusively breastfed babies’ iron stores are depleted by 6 months, so you need iron fortified cereal to replenish those levels. DHA is great for brain development.

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Libbey Glass Bowls with Lids: ($13) We wanted something glass to reheat any of the foods we make for Molly that are frozen because chemicals leach out of plastic when it is heated. These are great because they have lids. We typically defrost the food in one of these and then serve her out of another one so we can have half for the next feeding without contaminating it with saliva/germs.

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Evenflo ModTot High Chair: ($80) We got this for $60 right around Christmas. My main requirement for a high chair was easy to clean. So, that eliminated basically everything with fabric. This folds up relatively small. It’s slightly difficult to move, but we don’t move it often. We also liked how high it is because we have a pub height table. Molly fits in it well, and she’ll continue to fit in it for a lot longer. It has great back support, which was particularly helpful when she couldn’t quite support herself at first.

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Pulled Pork Nachos & Patio Furniture

Last night, we sat on our patio and enjoyed pulled pork nachos off of the outdoor new coffee table Sully built. In shorts. In February. At 5 pm. I could really get used to California winter. It’s sort of the most glorious thing ever. Our highs have been in the mid 60s, though last week it was 77 one day.

Since we have such glorious weather and Sully has way more free time, I tasked him with building some patio furniture. He’s been interested in building furniture, but never had time in Washington. We found some plans online, and he’s been working on furniture for the past few days. So far, the coffee table is done, and the chairs are in progress in our garage. He bought red cedar, and it smells glorious. It’ll age well and is supposed to survive outside nicely. I’ll share the full set when it’s done with details on the plans.

Here’s his table: table

But, let’s be serious and admit that you’re really here for the pulled pork nachos. I have no shame in admitting that I usually skip straight to the food pictures and recipe. I don’t judge you for doing the same.

We had pulled pork nachos as Lagunitas Brewing Company the first time we went. Then, we went back when my sister and her husband visited at Christmas, and, basically, I only agreed to go for the nachos. That whole brewery + gluten allergy thing really doesn’t work out in my favor, especially because I actually enjoy beer. Oddly enough, breweries usually have an exceptional gluten free menu. Perhaps because they know what gluten is? Anyway, I had to recreate these at home because Lagunitas is an hour and a half away…and I need nachos. Now.

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Pulled Pork Nachos

  • 2 cups pulled pork (more is also totally acceptable in our house)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 oz can of sliced black olives
  • 2 oz jarred jalapeños

Layer half of chips on an oven safe dish. Top with half the cheese, half the pork, half the olives and half the jalapeños. Broil at 450 until the cheese is melted. Lightly drizzle half the barbecue sauce and half the sour cream over top. Then, layer the rest of the chips, cheese, pork, olive and jalapeños and broil at 450 until the cheese is melted. Drizzle the rest of the barbecue sauce and sour cream over top and enjoy!

“All Natural” and Other Food Marketing Terms

There are a lot of hot words and phrases in food marketing.

No sugar added. Gluten Free. Vegan. No artificial sweeteners. All Natural. Organic. Low fat. 

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But, a lot of people really don’t know what they mean. There’s a grey area in food marketing where terms aren’t defined, nor are they regulated. All Natural is the best example of this. What does “all natural” mean? To me, it should mean grown from the earth with no added ingredients and not genetically modified.

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Organic: Made/grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizer. Organic foods also cannot be genetically modified. BUT, “Organic” actually only means made with 95% organic material. This applies to “organic” crackers, cereal, etc. An “organic” apple is 100% organic. Organic produce will start with a 9. For example, bananas are 4011 and organic bananas are 94011. These items may include the USDA organic seal.

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100% Organic: This is definitely not genetically modified. The food product only has organic ingredients, as opposed to an “organic” food that has 95% organic ingredients. These items may contain the USDA seal.

Made with Organic Ingredients: Not genetically modified. Must be at least 70% organic ingredients (but less than 95% or it would be “organic”), and up to 30% can be conventional ingredients. It should be noted that products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list the organic ingredients, but may not use the term “made with organic ingredients.” These items cannot display the USDA seal. Here’s a good resource from the USDA that explains organic labeling.

All Natural or 100% Natural: This has NO MEANING. The USDA (regulates meat, poultry and eggs) does not define this term. The FDA does not define this term. There is no regulation over the use of this term by food companies. Essentially, you might as well slap it on all foods.

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Gluten Free: As of August 2013, all foods labeled “gluten free” must meet FDA guidelines. This includes being under 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Only foods that are naturally gluten free or do not contain a gluten containing ingredient may be labeled gluten free. This does make it safer for consumers who must eat gluten free.

Natural Sweetener: This often includes things like Stevia products. I personally wouldn’t put that in my “natural” category, but again natural isn’t a term defined by the USDA or FDA. Mayo Clinic has a great chart showing the different types of sweeteners and categories of sweeteners.

Artifical Sweetener: These are the ones you typically think of. Apsartame, Saccharin, Sucralose (Sweet’N Low, Equal, etc.)

Non-GMO: These items are not genetically modified. Genetic modification uses biotechnology to change the genes of a plant. Call me crazy, but this reminds me of stem cell research. And when you think farmer, you tend to think conservative old man (just me?), so they’re OK with playing God with food, but not with things that could cure cancer. Riddle me that. I don’t like GMO, if you hadn’t noticed. If you want to avoid GMO foods, but non-GMO food or organics. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified!

Low Sodium: To be labeled low sodium, a food must have less than 5% of the Daily Value (DV) of sodium. The DV for sodium is no more than 2400 mg (meaning eat no more than 2400 mg of sodium a day). So, to be considered a low sodium food, it must be less than 120 mg of sodium per serving. However, pay attention to what is considered a serving. It might be a lot less of something than you think.

Low Fat: 3 grams or less of fat per serving.

Here’s some information from the USDA on labeling

Here’s a great article from eatright.org, the dietetic association’s website, on some other terms on labels such as low cholesterol, high fiber and fat free (which doesn’t always mean totally free of fat).

Here’s another great resource from cancer.org that explains food terms like free, low, high in, lean, light, etc.

Side note: Genetic modification is a post for another day. A large GMO seed provider, which has threatened to sue states that try to label GMOs on food, has a lot of ads in magazines geared toward the food shopper of the house that basically claim there won’t be enough food by 2050, but organic crops (non-GMO) actually have a better yield long term. OMG GMO is a great documentary that discusses GMOs and sustainability, as well as food supply in terms of longevity. I have a hard time trusting that GMO foods, which have been around for less than 30 years, are just safe with no long term consequences.

Monterey, Big Sur & Carmel-by-the-Sea

Sully got a day off for his birthday last month (because that’s apparently a thing in the Air Force? The Navy is all like “oh here have some duty for you birthday” so we were confused to say the least). We decided to use his day to make the 2.5 hour trek down to the Monterey Peninsula. It’s been on my travel list for a long time. The Naval Postgraduate School is there, and Sully could have gone there to get his Masters had he wanted to commit to a department head tour. But, the idea of going back to a boat after such a long, horrible junior office tour in WA was basically the world’s largest deterrent for him signing a department head contract.

Anyway, we tried to really soak up our time in the area. First, we did the 17 Mile Drive. Normally, I’d be against paying $10 to drive in a gated community because, well, it’s just dumb. But the views are stunning. The gated community is home to Pebble Beach golf course, where a round of golf without a cart is only $495 ha. The drive is home to the Lone Cypress tree–often photographed and used to portray the Big Sur area. The drive is totally worth the entrance fee!

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We spent the afternoon wandering Carmel-by-the-Sea. We visited the beach, where dogs can be off leash. Walter shockingly loved the beach. He hated the beach every time we went in Washington, and he is terrified of the dogs at the dog park. He actually played with dogs, ran around and even got his paws wet. This is some major progress for him!

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Carmel-by-the-Sea has a ton of dog friendly restaurants. We ate at Casa Nova for lunch. They had many gluten free options, including pasta! And, Walter was able to sit on the patio with us. The weather was in the 70s, so really perfect for lunch on the patio!

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We then had dinner at Little Napoli. It is also dog friendly, but we left Walter at our hotel. We snagged a room for $77/night at the Navy Lodge in Monterey, with only a $55 pet fee! Little Napoli also had gluten free pasta, and we enjoyed creme brulee for dessert. I judge a restaurant based on their creme brulee, and this one did not disappoint!

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Saturday morning we got up early to drive down Hwy 1 (with many stops for photos!) and hike at Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park in Big Sur. We hiked Ewoldsen Trail, which is about 5 miles with 1500 ft of gains. It’s definitely worth hiking for the views, but there was some complaining on my part. Sully wore Molly in the Ergo, and she was quite the trooper for the hike. Across from the Ewoldsen loop, you can see McWay Falls. I’d read about this hike many times while researching our trip, and Amanda’s photos definitely helped sell me on this hike!

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After our hike, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. After our success with Molly and her amusement at the San Francisco Aquarium, we figured it was worth doing the Monterey one while we were in the area. Molly loved this aquarium too! Fish are so entertaining to babies. It’s basically like a TV with bright colors and movement without plopping your kid down in front of the TV. Win-win in my book. We also really enjoyed the aquarium. While I still think the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is better, this aquarium is definitely worth a visit.13 f

Sunday, we had a delicious brunch a Carmel Belle. I would say it was one of the best breakfasts ever. They only poach their eggs, and I had them over a bed of spinach and sautéed onions. Everything tasted very fresh and light. We spend the rest of the morning at the beach before having lunch at Le St. Tropez–another dog friendly patio in Carmel with an extensive gluten free menu–before heading home!

Gluten: Not the Enemy

As a country, we eat too much processed food. The current “cure all” diet seems to be a gluten free diet. There are two ways to go about this diet:

  1. You cut out gluten and replace it with gluten free versions of similar foods
  2. You cut out gluten and don’t replace it with gluten free versions

As someone who has had to eat gluten free for more than six years to avoid anaphylaxis and sinus infections, I choose to replace some of the things I used to eat with gluten free versions on occasion. However, I don’t eat anywhere near the amount of starchy carbs I used to. For me, this diet works because I eat maybe 4 pieces of bread over the course of a month, a few cookies/pieces of cake every few months and minimally processed food the rest of the time.

Gluten is not the enemy. For most people, it’s a great way to get fiber and other nutrients from fortified wheat products. While I think the wheat grown in the US in inferior to wheat grown in other countries where they don’t genetically modify food, that’s a post for another day.

As someone in the middle of nutrition training who is allergic to wheat and gluten, don’t you think that I’d be the first person to say “don’t eat gluten” if I really thought there was a valid reason not to?

Many people claim they feel “so great” after they stop eating gluten. This is typically in the initial phase where they’ve cut out all processed food. Yeah, you’re going to feel better if you only eat meat, plants, beans and dairy. Anyone would. It’s a much more natural diet. Then, when you start to add in gluten free cookies, you’re going back to the way you ate before. While they may not contain gluten, they contain other things that aren’t that great for you. Sugar, fat, salt, etc.

Here’s the thing: Something being gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Truthfully. Gluten free cake is still cake. It has nearly as many, if not equal or more, carbs, fat and sugar. Often, more fat, sugar and sodium are added to gluten free products to help with the inferior taste, texture and quality.

Another common thing I hear is that “everyone is being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.” While it may seem like more people are being diagnosed, a lot of that is due to increased awareness of Celiac and gluten intolerance. Most people were told they had IBS and sent on their merry way without a real answer. In Italy, they screen children for celiac at a young age because of the amount of wheat eaten in Italy. Based on this data from 2001, Italy has a prevalence of 1 in 1,000 with Celiac whereas the US has a prevalence of 1 in 10,000. Could this be that Italy tests more, or could they truly have a higher rate of prevalence that is related to higher consumption of wheat containing products?

So, I don’t think cutting out gluten is the cure all. I don’t think it’s the solution. I think that in moderation, you can eat all foods (unless you’re allergic, obviously). If I wasn’t allergic, I’d definitely be eating wheat for its many benefits–though I’d probably opt for organic to avoid GMOs, as I don’t think there is enough research on the long term effects of GMO foods.

 

Snickerdoodle Biscotti {gluten free}

Snickerdoodle BiscottiI’m going to attempt to get back into the swing of things with blogging. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve got quite a few recipe posts in mind and a few travel posts, so hopefully I’ll stick with it!

My mom used to make biscotti around the holidays. I haven’t had biscotti since I had to start eating gluten free about 6 years ago. I’d been craving it for a few weeks, so I finally decided to take advantage of nap time and attempt gluten free biscotti.

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup)
1 cup sugar
2 teas baking powder
¼ teas salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teas vanilla extract
3 large eggs
cooking spray
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teas ground cinnamon
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Combine oil, vanilla, and eggs; add to flour mixture, stirring until well-blended (dough will be dry and crumbly). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 7-8 times. Divide the dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8” long roll. Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray, and flatten each roll to 1” thickness. Combine 2 T. sugar and cinnamon. Gently brush tops of rolls with egg white, and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2 inch) slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, bake 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack. Yield: 2 ½ dozen (or if you’re me, you get 16 of them because you cut them too thick).

Exclusively Pumping & Milk Production Tips

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**This is all about breasts and pumping, so if you don’t want to read breast about 80 times, I’d go ahead and stop reading now.

I had every intention of breastfeeding Molly until she was one year old. I was so committed to making it work. While in the hospital, the pediatrician commented that I probably set a record for feedings in 24 hours for a first time mother after reviewing our feeding log. I wanted it to work. I was so hellbent on it working. And, you know what? It didn’t.

Molly had a lip tie that made it impossible for her to eat effectively. We unfortunately couldn’t get an appointment for her to get it fixed until she was 2.5 weeks old. By that time, she’d lost 10 ounces. After vomiting twice at a weight check appointment the day after her lip tie got fixed, she was hospitalized for failure to thrive. I can’t even begin to explain how much that sucked. I felt like a bad parent. Like no matter what I did, I wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, she gained enough weight after 24 hours in the hospital that we were cleared to go home (and then move 2 days later). But, the way she gained that weight was from bottle feeding pumped milk (and a little bit of formula because my supply wasn’t where it should have been because Molly couldn’t feed effectively).

So here we are 3 months later. I’m exclusively pumping, and I get at least 40 ounces a day. I have about 400 oz of milk in a deep freezer in our garage. I thought I’d share some milk making tips and some EPing tips for anyone else faced with this. Most of these tips apply to breastfeeding too.

  1. Hydrate. I drink about 120 oz of fluid a day. I water down juice (about 2 oz of juice to 10 oz water) so it has just a bit of flavor, make flavored water with cucumber or lemon and limes, drink decaf coffee, have some milk, etc. If you don’t drink enough, you won’t make enough.
  2. EAT. I was really worried I wouldn’t lose any weight after I delivered if I ate as often as I was hungry, but that wasn’t the case. You need an additional 500 calories a day to produce milk–this is more than you need while pregnant. Pick proteins and healthy fats. Both encourage milk production. Once you get used to eating so much, you can plan ahead so you don’t end up ravenous.
    1. Fats: Greek yogurt (2%, not 0%), cheese, milk, avocado, steak
    2. Protein: Meats, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs, KIND bars
    3. Other helpful foods: Oats!
    4. Herbs: Fenugreek (makes you smell like maple syrup, which is awkward) and Mother’s Milk Tea
    5. AVOID: Peppermint and Sage (both reduce production)
  3. Pump every 2-3 hours in the beginning. The first 12 weeks are the most important for creating a supply. For the first few months, I pumped every time Molly ate so I’d have enough for her. Now, I’m down to 4-5 pumpings a day. I pump every 3-4 hours during the day and then if Molly wakes up at night, I’ll pump then too. Currently I pump around 6 am, 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm and 9:30 pm (right before bed). My first pumping of the day yields about 14 oz, as I haven’t pumped in about 8 hours.
  4. Lube. Use some sort of nipple balm before you pump. It helps to reduce friction so pumping is more comfortable. This allows you to pump for longer, making sure you fully drain your breasts. I use this Honest Co. Organic Nipple Balm and I really like it.
  5. Relax. If you’re stressed out, you’ll yield less milk. When we were still trying to find a house and living in temporary living, I was hardly getting any milk. Once we found a house and everything settled down, I saw a HUGE jump in my supply. I also get that it can be difficult to relax when life is so stressful with a new baby, but it does help!
  6. Flange Size. Have a lactation consultant check to make sure you’re using the correct size flange. This makes a huge difference in comfort. If you’re uncomfortable, you’ll yield less because you’ll stop pumping too soon.
  7. Pump an extra five minutes.  This is the SINGLE BEST TIP I ever got. This probably makes no sense unless you’re actually pumping. When your milk stops flowing while pumping, continue to pump for an extra 5 minutes. The milk should resume flowing after about 5 minutes. Once it stops again, continue to pump another 5 minutes. Continue to do this until your breasts are 100% empty. If I stopped the first time my milk stopped flowing, I’d get 2 oz on each side. Instead, I get 5 oz or so on each side. It takes me about 20-30 minutes to pump because I let the pump continue to run to make sure I get as much milk as possible.
  8. Get extra pump parts. It’s annoying to wash parts all the time. I’m lazy and it makes me cranky to have to wash them all the time. Having extras reduces the annoyance factor, which makes me keep pumping.
  9. Storing Milk. I use the Medela storage bags to freeze my milk. I group a week of those bags into a gallon ziploc bag and date it with that week. It helps organize the milk in the deep freezer so I can use the oldest milk first.

If you get blocked ducts, most of the advice you’ll find online will tell you to breastfeed and then pump after. This is just mean because you can’t breastfeed if you’re EPing. The only solution I’ve found is to use a heating pad for five minutes before pumping and then continue to hold the heating pad on the hard spot while pumping. I’d also suggest avoiding anything with underwire while you’ve got blocked ducts, as it seems to exacerbate the situation.

 

If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me! I’d love to help! Healthy Children, a website created by the American Academy of Pediatrics, also has an extensive section covering breastfeeding and related issues.