Loss and Gain

By: Angie Sloan

They say that when a person loses their sight, their hearing becomes more attuned. They are suddenly able to hear things on a different level. I assume it is nature’s way of compensating for the loss of vision. It serves to help guide and protect the person from things they can no longer see.

What happens when a person loses (almost loses) their life? What happens after a near-death-experience?

I can answer that. And I am grateful that I can answer that.

After you have faced death, you are more attuned to life. The life around you. The singing of the birds. The feel of the sun on your face. The smell of the rain. You notice things that have become background noise. You feel the emotion of others around you. Rather than just noticing the father carrying his daughter on his shoulders, you feel the joy and exhilaration his daughter feels. You feel the love and adoration they have for each other. You notice the young couple in the restaurant, on their first date. You see the nervousness and anticipation in their eyes. You feel their hope for connection. You see the elderly woman shopping for groceries and feel her confusion when she cannot find what she wants.

You take notice of it all.

On March 1, 2017, I woke up feeling extremely short of breath. I simply could not get enough air in my lungs to walk to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the kids. Luckily, my oldest son was home and helped get them off to school. I knew something was terribly wrong and once the kids were on their way to school, I called 911. An ambulance arrived within 5 minutes. My oxygen saturation was dropping and they took me to their nearest hospital. Seven people converged on me as I entered the emergency room. Even on oxygen in the ambulance, my oxygen saturation had dropped to 59. I was dying. I knew it.

I tried to stay calm. I knew that getting upset would worsen my situation. I lay there, on the gurney and thought about my life. I tried to remember what the kids were dressed in as they left that morning. I tried to remember their last birthday and what we had done for Christmas. I wanted to make a mental inventory of all the good memories, simple memories, in case that was my last day alive. My oldest son arrived as I was mentally preparing for what would come next.

Seeing him gave me strength. My mom instinct kicked in. I did not want him to witness his mother dying, so I made up my mind that I would get through this. They still could not get my oxygen saturation up. I had a massive blood clot in both sides of my pulmonary artery. The physician looked at me and before he could ask, I said, “Do it. Intubate me. Do whatever you can. I have to be around for my kids.”

And I prayed. I begged God to give them the insight and knowledge to save me. I was not ready to leave this earth. And just as they were about to intubate me, my oxygen saturation came up. My vital signs began to stabilize. I was still in critical condition, but things were improving.

Later than afternoon, they transferred me to ICU, where I stayed for the next 7 days. I was lucky that the physicians were able to shrink the clots in my lungs and my legs with high doses of Heparin and I eventually transferred onto the regular floor of the hospital. After 10 days total, I was released to come home just in time for Jack’s 9th birthday.

As we lit the candles on his cake, I made a wish. I wished that I would always take inventory of the life around me and that I would appreciate every moment. And that wish has been granted.

You don’t have to have a near-death experience to take inventory of your life. The good in your life. The things that matter. The things that don’t matter. I emerged a changed person. I felt like Mr. Scrooge on Christmas day. Being in the ICU for seven days will change your perspective. During my stay in the hospital, not one time did I ever think about the “things” I owned…the clothes in my closet, the car in my garage. I only thought about the people in my life. And the miracle of life itself.

The experience was a wake-up call. I was traveling 3-4 days a week for work. I was constantly on the road and rarely took breaks. I was under a tremendous amount of stress, which all led to the blood clot. I was consumed by what I “had to do” to provide for my family. And then I realized…I don’t need all of the “stuff” I had. I was existing, not living. My life was work, work, work. And for what? Things we didn’t need.

In June, I downsized to a smaller house. I got rid of the gas-guzzling car, and got a cheaper one. I had a HUGE yard sale and sold things I didn’t want or need. I ridded myself of the possessions that almost cost me my life. I traded all of that in for a simpler, more comfortable life. A life where balance is the priority. A life where I am mindful and present enough to savor the little things…those little everyday things. I don’t travel any more for work. I am home for my kids.

Most importantly, I am HERE for my kids. Present. Appreciative. Ever grateful.

Food for Thought

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

By: Shannon Boatwright

“Food for thought” means something that warrants serious consideration. Now let me tell you something you should already know…what you eat and drink matters immensely to your overall health and quality of life. Thus, it should certainly be food for thought!

Now there are tons, upon tons, of diets and healthy eating programs out there. But what we need to focus on if we want to truly be healthy, is a change of lifestyle.

I recently completed the Whole30 Challenge. Now let me state something here – I have NEVER done any kind of diet. Ever. Was never my thing. I like food too much and I’ve always just believed that exercise was the answer for me and I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. I’m not in the overweight category, have never been a big soda drinker or sweets eater, and overall believed I was a pretty healthy individual. So this concept of focusing on changing my lifestyle for the better really attracted me.

The truth is, I shouldn’t eat whatever I want. At least not if I actually want to feel good and operate at my best! So what in the world inspired me to try this Whole30 thing? Well, amongst my busy-ness I noticed that one of my dearest friends, Tiana, had been posting things on Facebook about her healthy eating and weight loss. Though I was really happy for her, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the details of her journey. Then my sweet Tiana came to visit me this past summer. Wowzers!! Not only did she look positively amazing – better than I’ve ever seen her look – but her health journey story with the Whole30 absolutely wowed me! Here was a woman, my age (in our very early, fabulous 40s), a kindergarten teacher assistant, with four kids and a very stressful home life. Before doing the Whole30 and changing her lifestyle, she would have anywhere from 15 to 20 migraines a month, had to get weekly allergy shots, experienced low energy and battled depression. Back in February she completed the Whole30 – a whole 30 days of eating and drinking healthy. It was her doctor that suggested the program in hopes that she would achieve positive results and ultimately all around feel better. She committed whole-heartedly, doing the program all alone in a house full of folks that did not join her in her mission to better health.  She stuck it out and has become a new and improved person, gaining much better habits and incredible awareness of what foods triggered ailments, etc. She went on to lose 40 pounds, has gained a life with zero migraines, no longer has to get weekly allergy shots and has boosted her energy levels immensely. Is that not crazy wonderful or what!??!

Needless to say, her story, her positive experience, totally captured my attention. I wanted, needed a body that functioned better! I desperately wanted to feel better while living my stressful, busy life. And though I considered myself a relatively healthy individual, I have learned so very much from my experience with the Whole30. Which by the way, is not a diet, nor a program really, it’s a lifestyle change. And the number one thing I learned is that the way you fuel and hydrate your body is absolutely critical to truly achieving good health.

Life is short, we have to take care of our vessel if we want to make the most of our lives!

Everyone’s experience with the Whole30 is different. We experience different benefits and learn different lessons. We figure out how to maneuver this healthy lifestyle change to best suit our needs and achieve health success. My biggest benefit is that since a drastic cleaning of my diet, I sleep better. Me! The chick that never sleeps well. The mom and teacher that can never turn off her brain! I can tell you right now that going 30 days without a whole lot of stuff that I really, really like, was totally worth it when I started actually falling right to sleep and finally sleeping well! I really, really hope to hold onto the key to keeping this benefit a part of my life.

Here are a few lessons I learned: 

1) I did not exercise as much as I should have while doing the thirty days, so I probably did not lose as much weight and/or inches as I could’ve. So, I learned that I really need to do better with that and move more on a consistent basis. Not necessarily for the sake of losing weight, but to benefit my body, activate and stretch my muscles, lubricate my joints, etc.

2) I actually experienced not having those afternoon slumps. You know, those moments in the afternoon when most people reach for that sugar filled, caffeinated drink to give you a boost? Yea, well I couldn’t do that while on the Whole30 and surprise, surprise, I didn’t need my sweet tea or coffee in the afternoon. I could drink some good ole water or cold green tea (nothing added) and feel good! For real.

3) I seriously love to cook. And boy did this experience ever give me a chance to get really creative with my cooking! Recipes change when you cut butter, certain oils, grains and dairy out of your diet!  And did you know that sugar is in almost everything!? Seriously, even my absolute favorite seasoning, Lawry’s, has sugar in it! This diet opened up a whole new world for me when it comes to reading ingredient labels! These products get so sneaky. Did you know that there are so many different words for sugar!? It’s crazy. So I learned and certainly experienced the reality and truth behind eating REAL foods, with REAL ingredients.

4) I learned that processed food is BAD. And now that I’ve tasted the difference, I sure do like the real stuff better. So much better! It’s amazing how it all affects your gut. Your body thanks you in so many wonderful ways, when you actually fuel it with real food and not processed, boxed and bagged foods.

The flip side – What I also learned:

1) I learned that I despise – I mean I truly cannot stand – my coffee with no sugar or cream. Yep, can’t do it. Drinking what seems and tastes like dirty water – NOT MY THING.

2) I learned that my body does need some dairy and grains. Fortunately, I do not have any sort of lactose intolerance – as long as I stick with the good stuff and not anything processed in any way. My gut operates better when I have some milk, cheese, yogurt, rice and breads – in moderation, of course.

3) I learned that any type of what I call “fake sugar” is really bad for me. I can literally take one swig of something with aspartame or sweet-n-low, etc in it and it will send me straight to the bathroom. Not good. And guess what, that’s totally fine with me because that fake sugar stuff is terrible for you anyway! When I do have any added sweetness, I’ll stick with the real deal, thank you very much.

4) I learned that I can actually survive just fine without alcohol and still be happy. Yep, I was without my wine. Did I miss it? Sure, there were definitely moments. Ironically, the 30 days that the hubby and I dedicated to the Whole30 were literally filled with special occasions and big events! Ranging from my sister’s 30th birthday to about four different other family birthdays, dessert dinner theatre and other random, special events and celebrations. Not to mention school started back up for me and goodness don’t you know a glass of vino after a long day back to the grind would’ve be so lovely. But nope, didn’t do it, and I survived just fine! My hubby is not a big drinker at all, so that certainly helped me. Instead, we focused on food. But I have to admit, because I do indeed love to cook, I really missed being able to pair the foods with a good glass of wine. On the flip side though – do you know how much money I saved by not buying that wine to go with my food? A lot.

5) I learned that though I have always been a pasta and wine lover, surprisingly it was not the pasta and wine that I missed most and not what my body craved the most during my 30-day experience. I missed my coffee! My Café Bustelo coffee with my French Vanilla creamer and sugar. And when I say I missed it – it was a tragic loss. In all seriousness, there were many days that I literally fantasized about my coffee. In dramatic fashion, with total desperation, all I wanted was my coffee, declaring, I’ll never eat pasta or drink wine again, just let me have my coffee with my cream and sugar!!! But alas, I pushed through the pain and made it out. Will I indulge in my coffee now that my 30 days is up? Absolutely. But, will I be more aware of the amount of creamer and sugar I put in my coffee? Sure thing. And will I limit all the other sugar filled beverages I have so that I can at least have my coffee the way I like it? Yes indeed!

6) The hubby and I learned that honeydew melons are the best fruit on the planet. You might say we overdosed on honey dew. They are the sweetest, yummiest fruit! OMG. In fact, we both probably gained weight and did not follow the Whole30 rules as much as we should’ve because we literally ate so much of that succulent, sweet, heavenly produce. It was how we survived our loss of sugar and now we are forever fans.

7) I learned important, yet ironic lessons about quality and quantity. I discovered that even though the foods we were cooking with were top quality, fresh, real foods, I still have a problem. Quantity!! That southern clean your plate mentality apparently applies to me always. I still tend to eat too much and not listen to my body when it’s full. So I’ve learned to be more aware of how much I put on my plate. Too much food is still too much food, even if it is great-for-your-body food. Moderation! In today’s times we eat enormous amounts of food! And it’s not necessary! We’re consistently overfilling our bodies and what our body cannot process quick enough, just flat out turns to fat and makes us feel terrible! So I’ve definitely learned that even though I’m on a mission to eat real foods, I still must be aware of the amount I’m taking in too.

So all this being said, I want to thank my precious friend Tiana for being the best cheerleader and role model ever! She has supported me every step of the way and been such an inspiration. She even repeated the Whole30 days with me! I don’t think I could’ve done it without her. I am so proud of her dedication to changing her life for the better and so very thankful for her unending love and support in helping me change mine! And to my sweet hubby, Brad, I cannot thank him enough for suffering through this experiment with me! He did not have to do it, but he made the sacrifice and knew it would be easier on me if I had a buddy. He recognized the benefits of making the commitment and I’m ever thankful that we were partners through the experience. It made it all much more meaningful being able to learn through it together. I’m very proud of him for committing to it for the sake of his own health too!

The journey to better health doesn’t have to be such a battle. It’s simply a lifestyle change and really comes down to awareness, smarts, logic and effort. What you put in your body directly affects how you will operate and feel. Period. It’s that simple.

Do you want to get out of your own vicious cycle? How do you plan to take care of this one vessel you’re given in order to live your life to the fullest?

It is definitely food for thought. 😉

5 Tips to Safely Watch the Solar Eclipse

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America and parts of South America, Africa and Europe will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Luckily for our community, Columbia, SC will have the longest total solar eclipse on the East Coast! While you are surely excited to witness this rare event, follow these tips to make sure you are doing so safely.

  1. Use Eclipse-Viewing Glasses: This eclipse might be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but remember that you also only get one set of eyes in your lifetime. If you plan to view the eclipse, you must obtain a pair of eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, which should meet international safety standards. Ordinary sunglasses, no matter how dark, should not be used as a replacement for eclipse-viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers. For those of you who wear glasses, make sure to keep those on and put the eclipse glasses over them. Here is a link find to NASA-approved glasses
  2. Use Filters Properly: Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter. The important thing to remember is to not remove it while you are looking at the sun.
  3. Drive safely: It sounds obvious, but be extra careful while driving during the solar eclipse. Do not look attempt to look at the sun while you are driving – even with eclipse glasses. Do not attempt to take photos of the eclipse while you are driving. Instead, exit the roadway and park in a safe area away from traffic to view the eclipse. If you must be in the car, prevent temptation by putting the sun visor down to block your view, and turn on your headlights when it gets dark.
  4. Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen: You can still get sunburned even when it’s not bright outside. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated if you’ll be outside for a while. Choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF and remember to reapply every two hours.
  5. Supervise Children: Always keep an eye on children using solar filters. Make sure they are using them properly at all times.

How to you plan to observe the eclipse? Let us know in the comments section!

Dining Reminders and Suggestions for the Gluten Intolerant

By: Rachel Sircy

Just a reminder to those with a severe gluten intolerance: dining out is dangerous! Now, I don’t mean to say that you can never dine out if you have a severe gluten intolerance or celiac disease, but don’t forget that when you go out to eat, you’re heading out to a virtual minefield of wheat, rye and barley.

It’s been in the news recently that large pizza chains Papa John’s and Dominoes have started to offer gluten free pizza crusts that they warn customers are not for the really gluten intolerant. When I first read the article on these chains, I could only think of all of the warnings that I’ve read on restaurant menus and food packages – warnings that sound like this: “Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise caution when consuming menu items labeled ‘gluten free.’”  This is pretty much exactly the warning that is printed on the Papa John’s menu.

I will confess to you, I have ignored such warnings for years. I don’t suggest following in my footsteps. I have made myself very sick on a number of occasions. Sometimes, the day after I eat out, I am stuck laying on the couch wishing I had had enough self-control to turn down dangerous food items. But, what’s worse is that a person with celiac disease cannot count on symptoms to tell them when their body has been damaged by gluten. Many times a celiac’s intestinal wall has suffered damage and their body is racked with inflammation and yet the person will feel absolutely nothing. There are no symptoms present in many cases of accidental gluten consumption for celiac patients. So, don’t let your feelings be your guide. Don’t be afraid to be that pesky person in a restaurant who asks questions and who sends menu items back. And don’t ignore the warning signs posted by the restaurant – they are there for a reason!

Unfortunately, many restaurants are trying to respond to the rising demand for gluten free food without considering why people really want to eat gluten free. I’ve said several times on this blog that following a gluten free diet is not necessarily healthy for a person who doesn’t have a gluten intolerance, but that is not exactly the popular opinion. People who don’t need to be gluten free are seeking out restaurants and stores that provide gluten free products. They will go where they can find these products, and they will pay a higher price to get them. These are the customers that Dominoes and Papa Johns are trying to reach out to. So, don’t be surprised when you go to a food joint all excited about their new gluten free menu item and find out that it’s not made for you. Those of us with real dietary needs are still on the back burner at most restaurants, so to speak. There are always exceptions to prove the rule, though. Chick Fil A apparently has gluten free sandwich buns that come in their own sealed packages so they cannot be contaminated by crumbs from other sandwich buns. Each customer has to assemble her own sandwich, which seems fairly safe, but remember the buns are not the only part of the sandwich that may have become contaminated with gluten; the chicken, lettuce and tomatoes are all suspect. Starbucks also has a gluten free breakfast sandwich that I feel pretty confident eating because the whole thing is assembled first and packaged in its own sealed plastic package. It is microwaved in that package, which is never opened in the store itself. So, there are a few options out there, but none of them are ever going to be as safe as the food you prepare for yourself.

We do have some hope, however. There may come a time in the future when gluten free restaurants may become popular enough to open up chains. For right now, there is only one restaurant that I can think of that is totally and completely gluten free and that is Posana in Asheville, NC. This restaurant is one I can recommend without any reservations (insert comedic drum roll) as every item on their menu is gluten free. They don’t serve anything that isn’t gluten free and so there is no risk of cross contamination. The food doesn’t come at fast food prices, so I might suggest that you save it for a special occasion, but it is worth it. When I went there, I had the fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese as an appetizer and I still dream about them. Yum. Their menu items are seasonal, but I’ve had their lemon-blueberry cheesecake and it’s to die for as well. If you’re gluten intolerant and you want a place where you can feel totally safe and where everything is made for you, then I would suggest making a trip to Asheville and pigging out at Posana.

If you’re really interested in Posana (it’s great food whether you’re gluten intolerant or not), check out their website: https://posanarestaurant.com.

How Much is Too Much?

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It started innocently enough. Saturday afternoon, I found a carton of Edy’s Mint Cookie Crunch at Target. Ahh, Mint Cookie Crunch. Delightfully refreshing mint light ice cream with chunks of chocolate sandwiches with half the fat and one-third fewer calories than regular ice cream. It’s hard to find. So when I saw it at Target, I thought that I better get some while it’s still available. Sometimes I over eat ice cream, so I thought twice about it, but thought that I could control my portions. The next day, the half-gallon was empty, and besides the cup that my sister enjoyed, I’d eaten it all.

I wrote the ice cream down in my food journal, and with exercise, I was somehow able to keep my calories down to a reasonable number, despite the many half-cup servings I had during those two days. But what really bothered me was my lack of control and the really large amount of ice cream that I ate in less than 48 hours. I rationalized it by thinking that “everybody does that every once in a while,” but this time, that didn’t make me feel better. So I took to the Internet.

Binge eating is such a strong term for overindulging, I thought, but according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), Binge Eating Disorder (BED) will soon join the ranks with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa as an “official” eating disorder. Binge eating is characterized by insatiable cravings that can occur any time of the day or night, usually secretive, and filled with shame. Bingeing is often rooted in poor body image, use of food to deal with stress, low self-esteem and tied to dysfunctional thoughts.

Could I have binge eating disorder? Distinguishing between overeating and binge eating is sometimes difficult, even for the eating disorder professionals. Compulsive eating and emotional eating are terms that have been around for years. BED is a distinct entity and not merely the occasional craving, over-eating when you are hungry, or the overindulgence during the holidays. According to Cynthia Bulik, PhD, “Every binge is different, just as every craving is different, and every binge eater is different but the scenario is the same.”

According to ANAD, Criteria for Diagnosis of BED includes:

  • Loss of control over amount of eating
  • Marked distress over binge episode
  • Occurs at least 1x per week for 3 months

And, three or more of the following:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal (i.e. 2 hour period)
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty over after overeating

So yes, I overdid it, but according to the ANAD definition, I’m not a binge eater because it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. (Saved by the “once a week for three months” clause.)

In my research, I found a great article about binge eating in Self, called “How Bad is Binge Eating. In the article, several professionals discussed binge eating, both anecdotally and clinically.

“It’s okay to binge every now and again,” says Mike Fenster, M.D., cardiologist, professional chef, and author of The Fallacy of the Calorie. “All things in moderation, including moderation. However, two important caveats do apply: intensity and frequency.”

Fenster recommends following the 80/20 rule. “Try to adhere to your usual healthful approach at least 80 percent of the time,” he says. “But there are special occasions, vacations, and life moments that call for a willingness to throw caution, and nutritional guidelines, to the wind. But a special occasion should not become standard fare. That ‘once in a while’ jumbo waffle sundae can’t morph into a nightly ménage with Ben and Jerry.”

Whew! Anyone got Edy’s?

Let’s talk. Am I the only one who occasionally binges or do you have binges, too? What do you most often binge on and what brings them on? What do you usually do after your binge?

5 Reasons to Participate in the Tunnel to Towers SC 5K Run & Walk

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

This year marks the 5th annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk. Join Lexington Medical Center and other members of the community on Friday, September 15th at 7:00 p.m. in Columbia’s Vista to honor our veterans and heroes.

Below are 5 reasons to gather your friends, family members, and coworkers and participate in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk:

It is a way to honor those who have sacrificed in the line of duty. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created by the Siller Family to honor the memory of their brother, Stephen. New York City firefighter Stephen Siller was off duty on September 11, 2011. When he heard what was happening at the World Trade Center, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran from Brooklyn to Ground Zero to save lives.

This foundation honors Stephen Siller’s legacy by supporting our first responders and service members who sacrifice for our country. Attending the Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run and Walk is a great way to show support for the men and women who keep our community safe.

It’s for a great cause. The proceeds from this event supports Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that constructs specially adapted smart homes for injured service members.

It’s a fantastic way to get your family up and moving. This 5K is open to all ages and activity levels. Participants are welcome to walk or run. Not only will this 5K give your busy family an opportunity to spend some quality time together, but it will also be a good way to get your family active.

Running is always more fun with friends! Switch up your usual Friday plans with your friends and create a team for the 5K. Running with friends not only gives you quality time to catch up and chat, but it also gives you that extra ounce of motivation you need to continue on.

There is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you come for the run, the live music, the food vendors, the after party, or just to enjoy the beautiful views of Columbia’s Vista, there is sure to be something for each and every person to enjoy.

For more information or to register, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/T2TSouthCarolina2017.

Accomplishment

By: Rachel Sircy

Recently, I wrote about how it’s good to shop at the farmer’s market for your food. However, I recently experienced something even better than getting your food from the farmer’s market…I grew some food for myself!

This is a picture of my tomato plant. I really wish I had taken a picture of it when I first got it, but honestly, I thought I was probably going to kill it. It was about 2 or 3 inches high when I first got this little tomato seedling. I planted it in a pot and now it’s about 3-4 feet tall. It’s so tall, that I have two separate stakes trying to hold it up and it’s pulling them both over. I didn’t bother getting a tomato cage, even though my neighbor told me that I should, because, like I said, I was pretty sure I was going to kill it.

I have a history with plants, mostly it’s a dark, sad history of dried up and forgotten impatiens and leafy ferns. But this year, in an effort to eat a bit healthier and closer to home (and also a bit cheaper) I decided I was going to try to grow my own herbs and some tomatoes. The herbs have done amazingly well. Parsley was the first plant that I bought and I’ve had it for about four months now and it’s still going strong. I have actually taken scissors and cut the plant all the way back to the dirt (a lot like cutting grass) several times now, and each time I do, the herb comes back fuller than it was before. I use fresh parsley in just about everything, and so this little plant, which cost me less than 5 dollars (it was a little over $11 for the terra cotta pot, potting soil, fertilizer spikes and plant all together) has saved me quite a bit of money. I was going to the grocery store and buying those little plastic containers of fresh herbs every time a recipe called for it. The thing is those little plastic packages are outrageously expensive, especially when compared to growing them yourself.

This little package of organic thyme cost me $2.99 pre-tax. I know I didn’t have to get organic thyme, but I prefer organic when I can get it. The terrible thing is, I won’t even need this much thyme for the recipe that I’m using, so I’m probably going to have to either throw the rest of it away or freeze it. If I paid that much for every fresh herb in every recipe I make, I would be totally broke. That is what I realized about four months ago. And so, I went to Lowe’s and picked up a little parsley plant which paid for itself in about 4 weeks’ time.

This basil plant was about two inches tall when I got it. It looks a bit rough right now, but just three weeks ago, I snipped almost every branch and every single leaf off of it for a large pasta recipe. At the time, it was standing about a foot and a half high.

Until this past weekend, the herbs were really the only plants that I had been able to use in my cooking. My tomato plant had some tiny cherry tomatoes on it, but they seemed to be taking forever to ripen.

But then, finally, I went outside and one of my tomatoes had turned red as if by a miracle.

I didn’t take a picture of it on the vine. I picked it and cooked it with eggs on Sunday morning. One cherry tomato may not seem like much, but the feeling of eating something that my own two hands had planted and helped to grow was absolutely magical!

So, if you are like me and you think that you have the hand of death when it comes to plants, you might just try something like herbs or a tomato plant and see how you do with them. Even if you don’t make it the first time, they are really not that expensive, so you won’t be out that much money. The fact that I could eventually eat these plants is what kept me really interested in them. Flowers never fascinated me the way that these plants do. I find myself checking on these plants daily and watering them regularly. I even talk to them sometimes. I think this is turning me into a gardener. And, in the end, growing your own food is a great way to save money on groceries as well as to eat healthier. When you buy organic produce from the store, you always have to take someone’s word that it really is organic. You can be 100% certain that your food is organic if you grow it yourself using organic methods!

For those interested, I found an extremely helpful app for my phone called “Gardening Know How.” It’s free and it has a gardening journal and tons of articles that are searchable. All of the articles are written in terms that are easy to understand for beginning gardeners. It’s sort of been my lifeline when I’ve run into problems or had questions about my particular plants.

Happy growing!

Kids and Celiac Disease

 By: Rachel Sircy

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about celiac disease or if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

Those affected by celiac disease may wonder what the risk is for our children. Here are a few things to consider:

1) According to the Center for Celiac Disease at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, children with a first degree relative (mom, dad, sibling) who have celiac disease should be tested. They recommend that a blood test for celiac disease be done after the age of three and after the child has been exposed to gluten for at least one year. Remember that if you don’t have gluten in your system, you can’t have a reaction to it. The tests for celiac disease are trying to measure an immune response to gluten. If you’ve already put your child on a gluten-free diet, your child’s test will be negative even if they have celiac disease.

2) Even if you have celiac disease, or your child has another first degree relative with CD, it does not necessarily mean that your child will have celiac disease, though they are more at risk to have the disease.  Some people (myself included) have wondered if it’s worth it to introduce gluten into the diet of an at-risk child. It’s really your call, but consider this: your child may one day want to get off of the gluten free bandwagon. It might be good to find out sooner rather than later if that is an option for them.

Also, there are other health issues that are associated with celiac disease. If your child goes undiagnosed for CD, they may still develop some of these other issues such as diabetes, lactose intolerance, or even coronary artery disease. If you choose to put your child on a gluten free diet without having them diagnosed, just keep in mind that doctors will not be looking out for any medical problems that are related to celiac disease.

3) In young children with celiac disease, you may have to watch for contamination from gluten-containing play things like play dough or chalk, etc. Normally, celiacs don’t have to worry about anything that merely touches the skin (gluten can only affect celiacs if they eat it).  However, since young children are prone to eating things they shouldn’t (like play dough, chalk, etc.), it might be a good idea to stock GF art supplies

4) Signs and symptoms of celiac disease in children (and adults) include the following: chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation; abdominal pain; vomiting; bloating/gas; fatigue; damaged or discolored tooth enamel; blistery, itchy skin rashes; iron deficiency anemia; short stature. According to everything I’ve read, irritability is the first sign that appears in young children. Consistently cranky children are often sick children. Asymptomatic children with genetic risk factors should also be tested because many celiacs do not show any signs of the disease in its early stages.

**All of the above information info was taken from the “Kid Central” page of BeyondCeliac.org, which is a pretty good resource. Also helpful is the Mayo Clinic website.

Recipe: Easiest. Cookies. Ever. (Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth works best, but crunchy will do)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (dark chocolate are our favorites on this, but milk chocolate is also good)

Directions:

  1. Unwrap Kisses and place in fridge, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream peanut butter and sugar into a bowl.
  3. Beat in baking powder.
  4. Add egg and mix until well combined.
  5. Roll into balls (smaller is better), roll balls in white sugar, and place on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Press/flatten balls with fork.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool on a plate.
  7. While cookies are still warm, press a kiss in the middle of each cookie.
  8. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Strengthening Saturday: A New Addition to My Toolbox

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“It was great! No cleaning, no responsibilities and no guilt. Just rest and relaxation.” That’s how I described a recent overnight stay at a health facility following a vocal cord procedure to my friend/counselor/life coach, Nancy.

Recently, we talked about how I could replicate that without having to go to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, I’d devised “Strengthening Saturday,” one day each month dedicated to rest, renewal, rejuvenation and refreshment. (If only Saturday started with an R!)

Following are the terms of “Strengthening Saturday:”

  • Designate the fourth Saturday of each month as Strengthening Saturday. (That week is usually a busy one for me each month.)
  • Sleep until I wake up; maybe go back to sleep even then.
  • Have no “to do” list for that day; only do the things I want to do including, but not limited to, watching Netflix; creating something; reading; and/or catching up on my writing.  
  • Unless there is something I WANT to do outside of the house and need to be presentable, stay in my PJs or lounging clothes all day.
  • Eat foods that are low-prep and healthy. Unless I want something sinful, which I’ll totally allow during a Strengthening Saturday.
  • No social media allowed. (Lumosity and Words with Friends, yes; Facebook and Twitter, no.)
  • Tell Mom and Sister not to include me in any plans on a Strengthening Saturday.
  • Maximize my senses. Play music I love or listen to a podcast; have some flowers or other beautiful thing in my room; light a candle; take a long hot bubble bath or freshen my bed clothes; eat wonderful food; cuddle with the cats; etc.
  • Will put the guilt of not “being busy” aside, just for one day.

As I continue to grow, build and yes, even still heal a little, I think Strengthening Saturdays will be a game changer. I can’t wait for the first one!

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By: Rachel Sircy

There are a lot of things to beware of when you have celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten intolerance. Label reading becomes a part of your life and you not only have to eat differently, but you have to think in a different way about food in general. It all seems pretty daunting, especially if you’re starting out. I know the feeling of being in a rush to get somewhere and thinking that I need to grab a quick bite to eat only to realize that there is nothing around me that is both quick and safe for me to eat. I have broken down and cried in a few of those situations. In those moments, I start to remember all the fast food places where I used to be able to eat. I start thinking that a drive-through dinner could solve all my problems if only their breaded chicken nuggets weren’t a complete hazard to my health.

It’s easy for those of us with a gluten intolerance to try to find quick fix solutions for a life-long problem, but that usually leads us into the danger zone. In fact, I just read an article about a new sort of pitfall for the gluten intolerant that is out on the market. Allergic Living Magazine published an article that answered some serious questions that I’ve had about some supplements I noticed on the shelves of some of our local health food stores. These supplements claim that they can help break down the string of proteins known as gluten so that people who are sensitive to gluten can digest it. Now, I have run into these supplements here and there for the past three or four years. A few well-meaning people in my life keep trying to get me to take these supplements so that gluten won’t bother me. They seem to think that these supplements work like an epi-pen, so that if I eat gluten I can quickly take a supplement and there won’t be any harmful effects. It’s all seemed pretty sketchy to me from the beginning. Celiac disease is sort of a digestive disease, but in truth, it’s an auto-immune disorder. It’s not that my tummy just isn’t happy when I eat gluten, it’s that my white blood cells think that gluten is poison. The digestive discomfort that occurs when I eat gluten is a result of my own body attacking itself. So, it didn’t make sense to me that a new kind of probiotic could help the root cause of my sickness. Unless these pills could break gluten down into a form that my body wouldn’t recognize as gluten, then their claim meant nothing to me.

As it turns out, my gut feeling (pardon the pun) about these supplements was right. According to Allergic Living’s article, dietary supplements in the United States are not regulated by the FDA. As long as they do not claim to cure any particular illness, they can make any claims that they want. According to a brief interview with Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, there has been research that proves that the supplements on the market are ineffective for celiac patients. So, while these supplements might provide some benefit for people who may have some digestive discomfort after eating gluten-laden products, they DO NOT make it safe for people with celiac disease to eat gluten.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of things that you can do in a rush to make sure you don’t go hungry. Fruit makes a wonderful snack and there are plenty of gluten free trail mix bars and whole food bars on the market. Keep your pantry stocked with quick, healthy, gluten free snacks and you won’t have to worry about what to eat on the run. And, if you’re craving some of your old favorite snacks, there are some pretty good gluten free substitutes on the market these days. If you can’t seem to find the exact replacement for your favorite cookies, doughnuts or fried chicken, take the opportunity that you now have to find something new, something healthier. Remember, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Suggested reading: Below are the links to the articles that I mentioned in this piece. If you have celiac disease or know someone with a gluten intolerance, they are well worth reading. I truly believe in getting your information from reputable sources. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (especially by crazy bloggers like me…) Make sure your sources are good ones, backed up by actual medical doctors and dieticians. Happy reading!

http://allergicliving.com/2017/04/19/a-gluten-free-reality-check/

https://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/04/01/can-glutenase-pills-help-people-with-celiac-digest-gluten/